Friday, September 17, 2010

"The Brotherhood of Faith"

It seems unusual to think of religion as being “The Little Guy.” Except in the context of mainstream media, where religion serves as a regular punching bag for angry non-believers and writers looking for an easy target.

Since I am – or at least was – or maybe still am with this blog – a contributor to mainstream media – okay, this isn’t mainstream, but you know what I mean – I find myself in an environment where going to bat for religion feels surprisingly similar to defending the underdog.

When was the last movie you saw where a religious character was “The Good Guy”? The only group that suffers a greater media pummeling is “Big Business.” But, of course, they deserve it.

Let me make clear what I’m speaking up for here. Organized religion, you’re on your own. And historical religion, with their meddling and their mayhem? I don’t know how anybody could defend that. Those guys were…ungodly.

And please, don’t give me any, “The other side’s just as bad.” They’re not “just as bad.” They’re not even close. The treatment the scientific community received at the hands of religion, as compared to the disparagement heaped on religious people today? I wrote a line about that once, clarifying the disparity. It went:

“No scientist ever burned a religious person at the stake.”

Dismissive and condescending? Absolutely. But they never lit them on fire.

What I’m defending here is personal faith, on which my view is the following:

Somebody’s personal faith is no more my business than their personal choice of music. To me, it may sound like meaningless noise, but it’s got nothing to do with me. It’s somebody else’s music. And it apparently gives them what they need.

Turning your nose up at somebody else’s faith is like sending back someone else’s food in a restaurant. The dish may not be palatable to you. But they’re the ones who have to swallow it.

What particularly chafes me in this regard is the attack on faith by a group of people whose careers are fundamentally grounded in it.

And by this I mean


Faith involves certainty concerning something that cannot be proven. Aside from the God area, no human activity is more dependent on unprovable faith

Than comedy.

What is a joke? A joke is a funny line or story or observation that made you laugh when you thought it up. Is there any certainty it will make anyone else laugh?


You may think you know what you’re doing, but every comedian has told a joke they thought was sure-fire but turned out to be a dud. Comedians have delivered the exact same joke – it killed with one audience; it died with another one. New comedian goes onstage, confident they’re funny, and they quickly learn that the audience disagrees with that assessment, as exemplified by the time-honored heckle,

“You stink!”

That’s just the way it is. There’s no crying in baseball, and there’s no certainty in comedy.

This is why, throughout his career of more than half a century, Jack Benny, one of the most successful comedians of all time, continually bit his fingernails to the quick. This is why other comedians drink, fortify themselves with drugs, or spend decades babbling in therapy.

“I don’t know whether I’ll be funny or not, Doc!”

“That’s right.”

They were funny before, but there is no certainty they’ll be funny the next time. This uncertainty ought to tie comedians up in knots, and make them go,

“Bla bla blabba dabba.”

But for the comedians who persevere, it doesn’t. They just keep going up there. And the thing that gets them back onstage, without guarantees, and with no certainty of success, is precisely the same fuel that powers religion:


And yet, it’s comedians who most viciously ridicule the people who rely on faith. They don’t seem to be aware of something.

“That’s you too!”

There was one who, I think, understood.

Richard Pryor came out on stage, and before he’d start his act, he would say – not to the audience, not to himself, I don’t exactly know who he was saying it to –

“I hope I’m funny.”

I don’t know what that sounds like to you. But to me, “I hope I’m funny” sounds very much

Like a comedian’s prayer.


Anonymous said...

A comedian kills his audience with a good joke.

A soldier at war kills villager with his good gun.

Both kills, so if you like comedians, you have to like wars.


escalante blogger said...

Not related each other.