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What Is Religious Satire?

Many books use satire as a form of criticism.
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  • Written By: Lee Johnson
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  • Last Modified Date: 31 October 2014
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Religious satire is any form of media that pokes fun at religion. Satire can come in the form of fictional books, films, and television programs and non-fiction articles or essays. Religious satire uses irony, ridicule, or sarcasm in an attempt to denounce religious practice. Many popular television shows and films have satirized religion. Satire generally is done in an attempt to expose aspects of a certain topic that are seen by satirists as being foolish or problematic.

Any written, spoken, or acted mockery of religion can be classed as religious satire. This can be thought of as a very broad definition of the term, because generally only satirists that have been published or broadcast at some point will be thought of as a "satirist." In the broad definition, even somebody making a joke in a non-public setting about a virtually irrelevant small aspect of any religion can be classed as a religious satirist. Technically, his or her words or actions would be religious satire in that they use irony, sarcasm, or flat out ridicule to denounce or expose an aspect of religion that the satirist believes to be in some way flawed. Ordinarily, the satire will focus on a relatively large aspect of the religion and is often broadcasted or published in the mass media.

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Satire is partially defined by its intent, which is to denounce, expose, or deride what the satirist sees as foolish or reprehensible. In this sense, if somebody depicted a religious official as a comical character but didn't intend to make any statement about the religion itself, it could not be defined as religious satire. A piece of media only becomes satirical if it makes jokes about an underlying issue with the subject being satirized. These jokes can take any form, such as irony, in which words are used to express something outside of their literal context, or simple ridicule, in which the subject is mocked openly by characters or by the portrayal of those characters.

There have been many forms of religious satire throughout history, including film, poetry, and even pseudo-religions. The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster was set up to show the problem with reasoning whether or not deity actually exists. Its inventors invented a new, absurd deity and have defended its existence. This is meant to show the difficulty of proving the existence of deity.

Religious satire can stir deep emotions in people, and has been known to cause deep offence. Some people have been threatened or even killed for their role in religious satire. On the other hand, satire can bring attention to flawed or damaging practices, bringing about change or improvement. It can be means to opening dialogue between people of differing beliefs.

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bear78
Post 3

@burcinc-- I agree with you. I think that religious satire actually encourages society to discuss religion in a more friendly way. Humor is a great way to distance ourselves from our biases.

burcinc
Post 2

@ddljohn-- Don't take religious satire so seriously. It's true that religious satire aims to expose something that doesn't make a lot of sense. But I don't think that the intention is to offend or insult anyone.

Have you seen some of the Simpson's episodes like "Homer the Heretic," or "Lisa the Skeptic?" The former is about Homer not wanting to go to church on Sunday and starting his own religion. And the latter is about Lisa finding a skeleton with wings during an archaeological dig and trying to prove to the town that angels don't exist. Both episodes are examples of religious satire and I don't think that either are offensive.

The whole point of these episodes is to show different opinions about common religious beliefs and how certain beliefs can be illogical or undesirable. I think we need to stop taking religious satire so personally and try to understand the underlying message instead.

ddljohn
Post 1

I'm one of those people who find religious satire offensive. I would never threaten someone for writing religious satire, but I won't read it either.

I think that religion is a very sensitive subject. I actually enjoy social and political satire a lot. But I'm not okay with religious satire. I don't deny that there can be parts of a faith that don't make a lot of sense to other people. But when someone is part of a religion, it's very personal and important for them to believe in it and follow its practices. That's why I would prefer it if people didn't use religious faith in satirical works.

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