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Don't joke with god
Maybe humor and religion don't mix


March 1, 2006

Mark Twain once said, "There is no humor in heaven". Twain believed humor was rooted in doubt, anxiety, sorrow, longing, and other human frailties. Since these are imperfections, he concluded they have no place in heaven.

Nothing funny in heaven?

I thought this was an interesting way to look at things, which led me to wonder if there is any humor in religion at all? In the Semitic, monotheistic religions that I know a little abou, like Islam, Christianity and Judaism, humor is not exactly a pillar of faith. In fact, it is hardly ever mentioned:

The word laugh/laughter is mentioned only 9 times in the Holy Quran, 8 of them in the context of ridicule or mockery, as in: "Let them laugh a little: much will they weep" (009.082), or "Those in sin used to laugh at those who believed" (083.029). The Holy Bible is not that much different. The Old Testament, which consists of 24 Books, mentions laugh/laughter all of 32 times. In the New Testament, which consists of 27 Books, laugh/laughter is mentioned just 6 times. For example, in James 4:9 it says: Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. (By contrast, death/dead/slay/kill is mentioned 231 times in the Holy Quran, 1,017 times in the Old Testament, and 443 times in the New Testament.)

Could this be the reason why fundamentalists violently protested cartoons of Prophet Muhammad? Maybe humor and religion don't mix.

If you were really curious- and brave, you could even take this argument further by asking: Does God have a sense of humor? Again, you must revisit your own feelings towards Twain's theory that humor's source is imperfection. If you agree with him, then there is no escaping the conclusion that God, by virtue of being defined as perfect, does not have a sense of humor. In other words, being perfect, not knowing sorrow or anxiety, God can not appreciate or relate to humor. This is clearly in contradiction with what we know of God as All Knowing, All Compassionate, All Everything. How can the created know about something- humor, that the creator does not know anything about? This is akin to heresy, or "kofr".

Therefore, if you believe in God, find a way to disprove what Twain said, either by proving there is humor in heaven, or showing humor can mix with perfection.

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