Yesterday was Easter, which means my Internet-life was full of references to Happy Zombie Jesus Day and photoshopped images of Jesus pooping Easter Eggs. It aggravates me enough every year that I consider stepping away from the Internet entirely, but this year I decided to think more about why I don’t think it’s funny.
I’m not Christian. I’m not even religious. Easter holds no special significance for me beyond its herald of my favorite Cadbury holiday candies. I’m not above the occasional joke about a religion, but Zombie-Jesus type jokes attack the fundamental belief of the religion and I think once you get into disrespectful territory, the humor loses its appeal. It’s for that same reason that I would never be interested in going to see The Book of Mormon The Musical, which came out last month and is brought to us by the always-respectful Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park. Although that play seems to have the added bonus of not only being disrespectful of Mormons, but of Ugandans as well, way to go guys. Usually, this type of joke at the expense of beliefs of another religion is made by what I call the Smug Atheist. This is the non-believer who has attributed some superiority to their atheist beliefs, and because they believe that their atheism makes them smarter than a Christian (or follower of any religion, really), it gives them free rein to make fun of and dismiss their beliefs.
I think that organized religion can be very problematic in terms of misogyny, homophobia, racism and classism. And I think that humor can be a great way to dissect serious problems (see: The Daily Show and sometimes The Onion). But the thing is, things like calling Easter “Zombie Jesus Day” aren’t breaking down the problematic aspects of Christianity, it’s just mocking the fundamental beliefs of the religion, and that’s why I don’t like it. If you believe that Jesus died and was resurrected, that doesn’t hurt me or anyone else. If you’re Mormon and wear the Sacred Garment underneath your clothes that people just love to make fun of and call The Magic Underwear, that doesn’t bother me either. In fact, I will likely never see it. So why make fun of it? Why go to the trouble of attacking the core of what someone’s faith, which only serves to put the religion on the defensive, and doesn’t further any productive causes like examining and bringing to light the parts of organized religion that are used as tools of oppression.
Christianity certainly doesn’t need me or anyone else to defend it, Christians are doing fine on their own. But I think that making fun of the tenets of Christianity is just as harmful as making fun of any other religion. If we want people to respect our position as atheists or agnostics without trying to convert us or feeling sorry for us, if we want people to accept that there are other religions besides Christianity, and to respect the Muslims and Jews and Buddhists, we need to show that we can be respectful of their religious beliefs too. Zombie Jesus Day annoys me because it’s just another way that people put others down and set themselves apart because of different religious beliefs.
People have been fighting over religion for milennia, so it’s naive of me to think that in my lifetime we will all of a sudden reach a place where people can understand that people believe in a different Higher Power than them, but I wouldn’t mind seeing fewer dumb, hurtful and ignorant jokes about other religions, even Christianity. And I could live the rest of my life without seeing a picture of anyone pooping Easter eggs.