Religious satire

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

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. Religious satire surfaced during the Renaissance, with works by Chaucer, Erasmus and Durer.

Notable examples of religious satire and satirists[edit]

American comedian George Carlin was well known for his routines satirizing religion.
Bill Maher, satirist behind the film Religulous

Films and documentaries[edit]


Literature and publications[edit]

Plays and 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]


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 US, and some towns and councils of the United Kingdom.[5] 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.[6] 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.[7]

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.[8]

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.[citation needed]

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. ^ Vicar supports Life of Brian ban
  6. ^ Dyke, C: Screening Scripture, pp. 238-240. Trinity Press International, 2002
  7. ^ "The Secret Life of Brian". 2007. 
  8. ^ "Votes on the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill". 2006.