Religious satire

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Religious satire is a form of satire targeted at religious beliefs.[1] From the earliest times, at least since the plays of Aristophanes, religion has been one of the three primary topics of literary satire, along with politics and sex.[2][3][4] Satire which targets the clergy is a type of political satire, while religious satire is that which targets religious beliefs.[1]

Religious satire is also sometimes called philosophical satire. Religious satire can be the result of agnosticism or atheism, but it can also have its roots in belief itself. According to religious theorist Robert Kantra, in religious satire, man attempts to violate the divine—it is an effort to play God, in whole or in part—whether under the banner of religion or of humanity.[5] Religious satire surfaced during the Renaissance, with works by Chaucer, Erasmus and Durer.

Examples of religious satire and satirists[edit]

Bill Maher, satirist behind the film Religulous

Films & documentaries[edit]


Literature & publications[edit]

Plays & musicals[edit]



On the web[edit]


  • Betty Bowers plays a character called "America's Best Christian". In the persona of a right-wing evangelical Christian, she references Bible verses, using the persona to point out the inconsistencies in the Bible

Parody religions[edit]

  • Boogyism is a fun loving cult that follows the teachings of The Great Booga, an 8 ft stuffed bunny look-alike who created the entire universe after an accident involving an unattended barbecue. It has its own religious text, The Spiritual Arghh.
  • The Flying Spaghetti Monster is the deity of the "Pastafarian" parody religion, which asserts that a supernatural creator resembling spaghetti with meatballs is responsible for the creation of the universe. Its purpose is to mock intelligent design.
  • The Invisible Pink Unicorn is a goddess which takes the form of a unicorn that is paradoxically both invisible and pink. These attributes serve to satirize the apparent contradictions in properties which some attribute to a theistic God, specifically omniscience, omnipotence, and omnibenevolence.
  • Discordianism is centered around the ancient Greco-Roman goddess of chaos, Eris, but draws much of its tone from Zen Buddhism, Christianity, and the beatnik and hippie countercultures of the 1950s and 1960s (respectively). Its main holy book, the Principia Discordia contains things such as a commandment to "not believe anything that you read," and a claim that all statements are both true and false at the same time.
  • The Church of the SubGenius pokes fun at many different religions, particularly Scientology, Televangelism (and its associated scandals), and other modern beliefs.
  • The worship of "Ceiling Cat" among Lolcats. Ceiling Cat's enemy is Basement Cat, a black cat representing the devil.
  • Dectrip, the worship of the deity Inglip, is a mock religion/cult in which followers (known as Gropagas) communicate with Inglip through randomly generated reCAPTCHA images often found before making a post on the internet. Inglip comics, a branch of the popular rage comics, have become somewhat of an Internet meme.


  • Voltaire
  • The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a street performance organization that uses Catholic imagery to call attention to sexual intolerance and satirize issues of gender and morality.
  • The Brick Testament, a project in which the stories of the Bible are illustrated with Lego.
  • Purim Torah, traditional parodies of Jewish life written out, and/or acted out, for the holiday of Purim.

Reactions, criticism and censorship[edit]

Religious satire has been criticised by those who feel that sincerely held religious views should not be subject to ridicule. In some cases religious satire has been censored - for example, Molière's play Tartuffe was banned in 1664.

The film Life of Brian was initially banned in Ireland, Norway, some states of the USA, and some towns and councils of the United Kingdom.[6] In an interesting case of life mirroring art, activist groups who protested the film during its release bore striking similarities to some bands of religious zealots within the film itself.[7] Like much religious satire, the intent of the film has been misinterpreted and distorted by protesters. According to the Pythons, Life of Brian is not a critique of religion so much as an indictment of the hysteria and bureaucratic excess that often surrounds it.[8]

The issue of freedom of speech was hotly debated by the UK Parliament during the passing of the Religious Hatred Bill in January 2006. Critics of the original version of the Bill (such as comedian Rowan Atkinson) feared that satirists could be prosecuted, but an amendment by the House of Lords making it clear that this was not the case was passed - by just one vote.[9]

In 2006, Rachel Bevilacqua, a member of the Church of the SubGenius, known as Rev. Magdalen in the SubGenius hierarchy, lost custody and contact with her son after a district court judge took offense at her participation in the Church's X-Day festival.

Richard Dawkins frequently points out that there is no reason to exclude religion from objective studying like any other social phenomena.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Hodgart (2009) p.39
  2. ^ Clark (1991) pp.116-8 quotation:

    ...religion, politics, and sexuality are the primary stuff of literary satire. Among these sacret targets, matters costive and defecatory play an important part. ... from the earliest times, satirists have utilized scatological and bathroom humor. Aristophanes, always livid and nearly scandalous in his religious, political, and sexual references...

  3. ^ Clark, John R. and Motto, Anna Lydia (1973) Satire--that blasted art p.20
  4. ^ Clark, John R. and Motto, Anna Lydia (1980) Menippeans & Their Satire: Concerning Monstrous Leamed Old Dogs and Hippocentaurs, in Scholia satyrica, Volume 6, 3/4, 1980 p.45 quotation:

    [Chapple's book Soviet satire of the twenties]...classifying the very topics his satirists satirized: housing, food, and fuel supplies, poverty, inflation, "hooliganism," public services, religion, stereotypes of nationals (the Englishman, German, &c), &c. Yet the truth of the matter is that no satirist worth his salt (Petronius, Chaucer, Rabelais, Swift, Leskov, Grass) ever avoids man's habits and living standards, or scants those delicate desiderata: religion, politics, and sex.

  5. ^ All Things Vain: Religious Satirists and Their Art, Robert Kantra, 1984
  6. ^ Vicar supports Life of Brian ban
  7. ^ Dyke, C: Screening Scripture, pp. 238-240. Trinity Press International, 2002
  8. ^ "The Secret Life of Brian". 2007. 
  9. ^ "Votes on the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill". 2006.