Op Ed

Zombie Jesus Day and Other Things I Don’t Find Funny

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.

43 replies on “Zombie Jesus Day and Other Things I Don’t Find Funny”

I am an atheist, but I don’t post “zombie Jesus” stuff on Facebook because I have friends who are religious and I don’t want to offend them. However, of my friends who did post “zombie Jesus” stuff this Easter, two are gay and one is trans. They have been personally harmed by religious dogma, and continue to struggle navigating a society that devalues, largely because of religion. So it doesn’t offend me when they post irreverent stuff. Also, you know, Easter is a day when we dye eggs and eat chocolate bunnies. I get that it’s also the day that Christians believe that Jesus rose from the dead, but it kind of annoys me how Christians, who do not celebrate the holiday with the solemnity they pretend it deserves, get angry that other people seem not to take it seriously, either. It’s not nice to make fun of someone’s beliefs, but it’s also important to understand that many people have been specifically and brutally victimized in ways that have been justified by those beliefs, so cutting them some slack would be nice, too.

What I don’t find funny is the way many conservative Christians want to deny our gay friends the right to get married, deny reproductive rights and options to women because it conflicts with their morals, and deny children an education about evolution because it conflicts with their beliefs.

There are so many ways in which they want to tell us how to think and act…I feel that calling it “Zombie Jesus Day” is a tiny, but acceptable form of protest.

I think it’s horrible, too, and it enrages me. Seriously. But I just don’t think Zombie Jesus Day gets at that. There are plenty of people who I like and respect who don’t believe in denying rights to gays and women who DO believe that Jesus rose from the dead. I think that making fun of that belief isn’t really a protest as much as putting those people who normally would be allies for gay and women’s rights on the defensive.

Wait, so, referring to Easter as Zombie Jesus Day is your way of protesting Christians who are anti-gay and anti-women.
Not only are you blindly lumping all Christians–including the liberal, pro-choice and pro-equal rights people who believe in Jesus–into one group to insult, but you’re also abandoning all the rational, social, economic and, yes, Biblical (!) reasons why their points of view on gays and women and the like are ridiculous and wrong.
Instead of coming up with well-reasoned rejoinders to their positions, your response is to shout, “Happy Zombie Jesus Day!” That to me is about as classy (and sensical) as thumping the Bible to defend misogyny and homophobia, and it’s a standard trick of those who prefer bigotry to reason. When those people hear something they don’t like, they plug their ears and yell something offensive. It helps nothing and proves only the ignorance of the speaker.
Do you really, seriously want to hang out on the same level as these people?

I am very spiritual, but I am not at all religious. I don’t even believe in it, if you can conceive of that. I think it is entirely man-made and fosters separation, however I believe the basis behind it, those eternal kernels of truth are present in some way in all religion, and that’s what I believe in.

That being said, I love to laugh and am not easily offended. As a matter of fact, I read something on line once and will never forget it because I think it’s very true, I can’t find the original link, but someone else talked about it on their blog:

“On The Thinker, Jeffrey said, “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for the ‘easily offended’ to become good critical thinkers.” Based on his personal experience, he proposed three (non-exhaustive) categories of easily offended people.

First are those who tend to use being offended as a manipulation tool to stifle discourse on a topic, thereby avoiding arguments they don’t wish to face.

The second form is related to emotions. Some people are thinkers; others are feelers. Feeler-types tend to become emotionally attached to their opinions.

The third category is comprised of people who actively seek opportunities to get offended by anything that appears (or can be made to appear) to run counter to their pet cause.”

So basically you have the problem of people who are very emotional attaching emotion to opinions vs. the non-emotional, analytical people who feel that other people “take things too personally.” vs. the people who use getting offended to defend their POV.

I have this horrible habit of always arguing both sides of the equation. So what I’m saying is I understand exactly why some people might take great offense to the term “Zombie Day” — I get it.

I also understand why some people might laugh it off and think of it as no big deal.

You know what I think it all boils down to?

Intention. Some people tell a joke and mean nothing at all by it; some people are just insensitive.

When a person tells another person that they are stupid to believe in what they do, and then make mean-spirited jokes to demean their beliefs, that’s just mean. They are just trying to be hurtful.

So I love your statement:

“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. “

It’s true, and really that will happen when people start treating others with love and kindness and stop thinking with that us vs. them mentality.

I’ll agree with you. While I wasn’t necessarily offended by the Zombie Jesus (and I am Christian), they definitely rubbed me the wrong way. I’m all about celebrating in a light hearted way on the internets (which was why I spammed my Tumblr friends with guinea pigs and bunnies dressed up for Easter), but I do feel that calling it Zombie Jesus day is too much.

Believing something that is false does hurt you and others. It stops the progression of science, entrenches children forcibly in a belief system that debases women, gay people, and anyone of a different sect — and that’s not a warped interpretation of the scripture, that is an accurate and true reading, not the piecemeal approach quasi-intellectual Christians choose. Religion is the reason why my reproductive rights are limited in this country, why my forebears where members of the terrorist organization IRA, and why lesbians in Uganda are victims of corrective rape.

Religion deserves no more respect than anything else that is wrong and has killed millions of people.

While I appreciate that many religious people and organizations have lobbied for and produced the systems you’re talking about, I take serious issue with the presumption that all religion always leads to these kinds of problems. Not everyone takes a hardline approach to their religion in their political life and not every religion holds up the ideas you’re talking about. There are many denominations of Christianity alone that promote and practice toleration and have long traditions of social justice. Not every denomination of Christianity follows the scripture to the word, nor does every denomination engage in the piecemeal, I-actually-just-want-to-tell-people-what-to-do approach you identified in your comment.

To generalize about religion as you do in your comment is not fair and not accurate.

The approach you’re describing is piecemeal. You’re picking and choosing what bits of the religion to follow, because obviously parts of the Bible (in this case) are wrong. They’re homophobic, women-hating, slavery advocating, genocide inducing levels of wrong.

If you’re going to pick and choose what parts of the Bible to believe, then obviously you have some other sort of guide to morality that it’s allowing you to decide what bits are good and what bits are bad. In that case, why do you need to follow a belief system that is so inherently bad that it cause you to ignore half of the text?

My problem with religion is that adherents expect more respect for their beliefs than I would give for some other choice. I don’t care if someone chooses to tan, but I may still make fun of them for that. Religion is no more worthy of respect than anything else. That’s equality.

And as far as social justice? Google Oscar Romero. That’s the social justice I know.

I would suggest, albeit as humbly as I can, that the “piecemeal” approach is not piecemeal, but an approach that stems from a better understanding of ancient texts and of the way the Bible “works”. Unfortunately my knowledge is limited to the Bible so I can’t speak for other ancient religious texts. But when it comes to the Bible, only the least knowledgeable (who do tend to be the most vocal) would ever even try to say that every single thing must be given equal weight. Yes, there are some alarming and horrific things in the Bible, but the fact that they’re in there doesn’t mean that the God Christians serve endorses said horrors.
It is not “picking and choosing” to call oneself a Christian and to, under that banner, rally against social injustices, live simply, and to show love and kindness to others. It’s ridiculous to think that everything in the Bible is supposed to be an example of proper behaviour, and that the most heinously vocal people who call themselves Christians are representatives of the faith as a whole. It’s these people who have no idea how to read ancient texts at all, have no concept of context, and are unable to separate genres from one another.
It’s not about “ignoring half the text”, it’s about a broader understanding of things like genre, and authorship, and a certain text’s place in the context of the whole.

when it comes to the Bible, only the least knowledgeable (who do tend to be the most vocal) would ever even try to say that every single thing must be given equal weight. Yes, there are some alarming and horrific things in the Bible, but the fact that they’re in there doesn’t mean that the God Christians serve endorses said horrors. . . .It’s ridiculous to think that everything in the Bible is supposed to be an example of proper behaviour, and that the most heinously vocal people who call themselves Christians are representatives of the faith as a whole.

Great response, I agree!

But isn’t the bible, koran, etc. considered ‘gospel’? And doesn’t that indicate its text is something that is to be followed to the letter if one is to consider themselves true to that faith? And if one isn’t following that doctrine isn’t that just being hypocritical?

I can only go by what I know, being raised Catholic. And that was pretty much the foundation of any mass I went to as a child. Yes, you confess and repent and all that good stuff, but isn’t that also hypocritical–by doing something you have to ‘confess’ about repeatedly even though you know it’s wrong?

Well, “gospel” itself simply means “good news”, you’ll find the terms used interchangeably throughout the New Testament. I’m not sure about the Qu’ran, though in the limited studies I’ve done on Islam I never encountered the word “gospel” (which you wouldn’t, since it’s basically a loanword, translated from ??????????… literally “good news”), or the term “good news”. the concept of “gospel” turns up a great deal in the gospel of Mathew, at the end of Mark, and in the epistles as well. what the gospel actually is will depend on who you talk to.
the gospel isn’t so much “doctrine that has to be followed to the letter”. … hmmm… I am thinking there will have to be a “Sunday’s a’Comin'” post on the gospel… I do think, however, that the Bible, as a whole, describes the good news of God’s desire and plan to draw all of creation to himself and make it new.

I don’t know about the Torah. But the Koran is believed by Muslims to be the literal word of God. That is, he told it to the Prophet Mohammed, and it was written down just as God said it. The book itself is holy to Muslims as a manifestation of God. However, like most religions, Muslims still turn to Imams, learned scholars who have studied the book, to explain what exactly God meant. And that is how you get various sects and even mosques who have different leanings and different ideas about what sayings mean. For example, on polygamy, the Prophet said you can have up to four wives if you love and treat them equally. Many imams today say that he meant that polygamy is impossible–how can you love four spouses equally?–and that God really meant for people to be monogamous. Others, of course, interpret that literally. What did God mean? Who knows? You have to decide for yourself what he meant.

The Bible, meanwhile, is a collection of books written by a bunch of different people a long, long time ago. So all of that is open to interpretation and we know that those interpretations can get pretty wacky. However, the only part considered the official Word of God is the four books of the Gospel in the New Testament–Matthew, Mark, Luke and John–which chronicle the life and teachings of Christ.
For what it’s worth, according to the gospels, Jesus said that his own works and commandments supersede all the other Old Testament harshness (the anti-women and gay whatnot, and all the smiting, is in there). All Jesus wanted people to do was love one another. I can’t see how that doesn’t align with a liberal philosophy. But then, what do I know.

I think your response is really well written, and I appreciate that you’re not treating me like a troll. I enjoy the debate and thinking constructively about my views. I can be a bit Gemini on a topic — seeing both sides — so confrontation helps me flesh out what I really believe better.

That being said, my main point is that a person’s belief that theirs is the best religion is due no more respect than their belief that their state is the best, or their family the best. I’m not going to stop making Idaho jokes (state chosen randomly) and I think it’s self-centered to expect any more respect than that. It presupposes the importance of religion.

Sometimes I think the term “troll” is doled out far too often. You’re clearly not making statements like you did just for the sake of causing anger or distress.
I think for me, and I don’t claim to speak for all Christians, the “Zombie Jesus” thing bothers me because it makes light of something that is central to how I live and how I understand the world (my column tomorrow will touch on that in a way). to take something that, to me, is so life-changing, life-giving, so miraculous, so full of life and hope… and to decrease its importance down to the idea of the undead as seen in popular culture? well that’s just as bad as when 6-day creationists insist that God had to have created the world exactly the way Genesis says: they miss out on the magic and the brilliance and the detailedness of the evolutionary process.
I don’t expect people to allot a great deal of respect toward Christianity, as someone above said, I know I’m not in a persecuted minority by any means. And even though, yes, I have chosen Christianity, which means, by default, I have to not-choose every other religion, I still am not particularly fond of the idea of mocking someone else’s beliefs, mostly because it’s just really unkind. Granted, I’m never one to joke about other states (provinces in my case) either. My ex-fiance used to complain/joke about Newfies and Frenchies (people from Newfoundland and Quebec) and it made me really uncomfortable. So that might be the discrepancy there between us.

You’re making the same mistake all Christian fundamentalists make. The coming of Jesus negated all Old Testament law other than the Ten Commandments, so no, one sentence in Leviticus condemning homosexuality is not equal to love thy neighbor. People who use the Bible to be bigoted assholes are not trying to truly follow their religion, because I’m sure no one at Westboro Baptist keeps kosher or stays in a tent in the yard during their periods. Shitty people are going to be shitty no matter what, no matter what belief system they follow (because yes, atheism is a belief. Science can’t prove or disprove the existence of a god, so everyone has to have some faith when God is concerned).
For the record, I’m not a Christian. I just hate it when atheists use bigotry to condemn bigotry they don’t agree with.

I’m not a bigot for thinking Christians are wrong. Christians think Muslims are wrong, Muslims think Jews are wrong, Jews think Christians are wrong. Way to advance the argument, though.

And there’s plenty of misogyny and racism in the New Testament; the myth that there isn’t is propaganda.

This is sort of tangentially related, but should you be interested in talking about myth and propaganda, it is perhaps relevant to talk about what has occurred in the name of science and the progress of science, and what is taking place now that is requiring multiple leaps of faith, such as genetic research. I’m not arguing against it just pointing out that, but both religious faith, and scientific faith (which is not the same as the scientific method) both require faith. They function through similar mechanisms.

Two things: as a good Minnesotan girl, I’m starting to feel like I’ve overstepped. I’m in no way trying to convert people to atheism — I know that people don’t change their value systems based on internet strangers — although I think I myself forgot that at various points. I apologize if I came off mega-vitriolic through this.

Second: the difference between science and religion is that science can be tested and proven true or false. There are verifiable results, such as polio vaccines which, in fact, prevent the polio virus, not because people have faith, but because science made it happen.

That people need to have determination to pursue their research is not faith, at least, no more so than that I have faith that my relationship will be awesome forever, or that my house will not fall down today, that my internet connection won’t die on me. I reject such a vast application of the word because it destroys its true meaning.

It’s very easy for this dialogue to devolve into “I’m right, you’re wrong”, especially on the internet. So it’s really cool when it actually creates interesting thinking and conversation, which is what I think you’re facilitating here. (Also, when I re-read my post I realized that the copyeditorbot failed miserably, so sorry about that.)

This is an issue of language, at the heart of it, I think. When you say ‘science’ you mean something other than what I mean. The scientific method is what is used to test, prove false or repeat results, and I’m not really referring to the scientific method when I say faith.

‘Science’ though is something entirely different. To practice science presupposes the knowability of the world. And just like religion, there are different degrees of believers. Some scientists believe that everything can be known, some not so much. At the heart of it, I think, is the belief that things can be understood, that data exists, and it’s just a matter of finding the data or interpolating the data. But data is a construct of the human mind and thinking and it takes a certain kind of faith (maybe not the same as believing in a god/afterlife) to pursue this data. Hence similar (not same) mechanisms.

Hi, genetics researcher here (had to comment). I am curious as to what you’re trying to say here, because it’s not clear to me. Are you arguing that faith is good/necessary because science is often beneficial? For the lay person, reading media summaries of research would require leaps of faith, but the fact that you can look up the background information and find tangible proofs makes it totally different from believing in a deity because you were brought up to do so or whatever. (And I’m not trying to knock spirituality here so much as blind, unquestioning faith.)

…as to whether religious faith is good/necessary, I would say not inherently, apart from in cases where it makes people believe that there is a reason to act ethically towards others. Anyways, I liked your point earlier about people taking themselves too seriously – I wanted to say something along those lines, but you said it better than I could have done!

Your attitude comes off as you thinking you’re intellectually superior to all religious people, which is quite bigoted. Atheism is just another belief. And like I said before, there isn’t any evidence that all the world’s problems will magically disappear if religion goes extinct. I’ve met plenty of atheists who use pesudoscience to back up their sexist, racist beliefs, and they’re just as annoying and smug as fundamentalists.
I’m not aware of any New Testament passages actively encouraging racism, if you could point me to them, that would be great.

I think religious people are quick to write off atheists as smug and full of their own intellect, kind of like how Fox News blames anti-Republican news on the liberal agenda.

For the record, I’m not some atheist prophet trying to convert the masses, but if you’re honestly ignorant about some of the terrible things in the New Testament, here’s a snapshot:

This is all from Matthew:
Jesus tells his disciples to keep away from the Gentiles and Samaritans, and go only to the Israelites. 10:5-6
In the parable of the unforgiving servant, the king threatens to enslave a man and his entire family to pay for a debt. This practice, which was common at the time, seems not to have bothered Jesus very much. 18:25
Jesus condemns the Jews for being “the children of them which killed the prophets.” 23:31
Jesus blames his the Jews (who were then living) for “all the righteous blood” from Abel to Zecharias, 23:35

Jesus initially refuses to cast out a devil from a Syrophoenician woman’s daughter, calling the woman a “dog”. After much pleading, he finally agrees to cast out the devil. 7:27

Jesus says that God is like a slave-owner who beats his slaves “with many stripes.” 12:46-47

Jesus calls his opponents (the Jews) the sons of the devil. 8:44
Jesus is the only way to heaven. All other religions lead to hell. 14:6

Peter blames the Jews for the death of Jesus. 3:14-15

With his usual intolerance, Paul condemns homosexuals (including lesbians). 1:26-28

Christians can judge everything and everybody, but no non-Christian can judge them. 2:15
Paul lists ten things that will keep you out of heaven, including homosexuality and being “effeminate.” 6:9-10
Everything is lawful to Paul, and he submits himself to no law. 6:12, 10:23
Slaves should not desire their freedom. 7:21
Women are commanded by Paul to be silent in church and to be obedient to men. He further says that “if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in church.” 14:34-35

To be perfectly honest, you are, unintentionally I’m assuming, committing the same type of fallacy committed by fundamentalist literalists: if you pay no attention to or have no understanding of wider context/narrative, then yes, truly, these things are horrifying.
However, once read in proper literal/historical/stylistic/etc context, texts like these, while still perhaps disconcerting, can make a lot more sense and maybe not evoke as visceral a reaction…
for instance, all of those passages from Matthew: things to keep in mind: Matthew was written in a Jewish context, for Jewish readers. The concept of the Messiah coming for the Jews first is a very common one, and if the Jews were going to accept Jesus as Messiah of the world first they were going to have to accept him as the one the prophets had spoken about.
– in the parable of the unforgiving servant, I would note that the point of the story is that this servant was forgiven an enormous debt by the king, and yet still imprisoned someone else for a much lesser debt. it’s impossible to infer whether or not Jesus “had a problem” with this or not, but either way, the entire point of the story is that when people are shown love and compassion, the proper response from them is love and compassion towards others.

– one of Mark’s main themes is what’s called “the Messianic secret”… or Jesus trying to keep quiet who he was. because, once again, the author is Jewish, there are many references to Jesus being there first for the Jewish people. and in the end of the text, Jesus heals the woman’s daughter, which she had asked him to do in the first place, because she was smart and well-spoken.

– 1 Corinthians 2:15… that’s some serious proof-texting you’ve got going on there
– 1 Cor 6 – Again, not what the text is talking about. Paul is discussing this concept of “freedom in Christ”… a theme that comes up often in both letters to the Corinthians. there were a whole lot of conflicts going on between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians – the Jewish Christians looked down on the Gentile Christians for not being circumcised and not following the law of Moses, and Paul was big on letting them know that if they wanted to still follow the law, that was great, and if not, that was fine too, because for each person “all things” are lawful, but for each person everything might not benefit them.
I talk about 1 Corinthians 14 a little bit in the post “Christian Feminism”, but basically… churches were still set up like synagogues, men on one side and women on the other. the women, for the most part, weren’t as educated as their husbands, at least in the Corinthian church, and some of them were shouting across the room to ask questions, leading to a great deal of disorder. Paul, being Paul and not all that great at being gentle, makes a suggestion for orderly worship that’s in keeping with the customs of the day.

mostly what I’m saying is that yes, if you just pick various things from various places and take them at face value then you probably will find some pretty awful things in the Bible. but like I’ve said… we’re looking at dozens of ancient books, written in various cultures by people with various biases and worldviews. and also people whose biases change. for instance, Paul says in one spot that he doesn’t want women to speak in church, but he also endorses Lydia, Priscilla, Junia, and Phoebe as deacons and leaders of churches. I would suggest that Paul, a Jewish Christian who was also once a Pharisee, was behaving as redemptively as he was able, given his cultural context.
I would recommend Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals by William J. Webb, as a really great (and really intense) read on this idea of redemptive movement throughout the Bible, if you’re interested, anyway.

* I want to clarify re: the parable of the unforgiving servant:
I said it’s impossible to infer whether or not Jesus “has a problem with” the king’s decision regarding the servant’s debt. perhaps a better understanding is that a king/loaner was perfectly capable and socially supported in behaving in such a way. but in this parable, the servant owes an amount that is impossible to be repaid in one person’s lifetime. the king’s decision to not imprison the debtor is the main point of the story: if God grants us mercy when we screw up royally, why do we not grant that same grace to others who have screwed up far less?
Jesus tells lots of stories in which people behave questionably and you could argue he “doesn’t have a problem” with that… but it’s just such a ridiculous thing to try to infer. the story of the good Samaritan has people passing by a dying man on the road, the story of the prodigal son has a kid basically telling his father he wishes he was dead and taking his inheritance and ending up living with pigs… but like I said before… no one is saying that everything in the Bible is a poster child for proper behaviour.
mostly it’s just that trying to infer what may or may not have “bothered” Jesus when there’s no evidence in the text to support anything other than that he was telling a story to make a point isn’t good scholarship. and what was “bothersome” didn’t really tend to bother Jesus very much. Widows, prostitutes, single women, fishermen, tax collectors… they were all really, really bothersome to other people in first-century Israel. but Jesus treated them like they mattered, because they did and do.

I’m not writing you off because you’re an atheist. I’m writing you off because your argument started with “I’m right, all religious people are stupid and bad.” Blaming all the world’s problems on religion is short-sighted and just lazy. The issue is people who purposely misuse religious texts (as fifthpensive explained much more eloquently than I ever could), not religion itself.

This could easily not be universal, but at my Catholic church we weren’t taught that everyone else is “wrong.” We weren’t taught that anyone else goes to hell (as far as I know that’s not even officially a thing the Catholic Church talks about, and it’s certainly not a literal place to anyone I’ve discussed it with) for not being Catholic. A friend of mine converted from Catholicism to Evangelical Christianity for that reason–she believed you have to accept Jesus as your personal savior to be “saved,” so to speak, and the Catholic Church doesn’t profess that.

So I think that particular generalization you’re making is often not the case. I think in general, too, you’re painting religion/religious people with a pretty broad brush.

Eh, I have friends who are Chrisitans and call Easter Zombie Jesus Day. I’ve only heard that phrase used endearingly, so I don’t think Zombie Jesus Day is always meant to be disrespectful. Going off on a tangent, I can’t stand it when atheists bitch and moan all December about how much they hate Christmas and how in your face Christians are, but then they celebrate Christmas in a very commercial way. Dude, maybe if people stopped sucking all the religion out of Christmas, it wouldn’t be celebrated so publicly.

I really like this – taking a critical look at others not taking a critical look at something they’re making fun of. As you said, it’s about “attacking” something worth attacking. Respect of others’ beliefs, etc. I wouldn’t say it “offends” me, exactly, but I just tend to not talk about days that don’t apply to me. Well said (you, not me).

Well, I guess I’m going to be the dissenting voice. I do sort of thing Zombie Jesus is funny. It’s not just adding zombie to Jesus – the story goes Jesus died and resurrected, hence the walking dead comparison. To be fair, none of my friends mocked Easter, I’m not on tumblr, I wasn’t all over the interwebz yesterday and wasn’t exposed to what might have been incredibly crude or graphic gifs, or derisive tone. But the underlying joke is amusing to me and to be honest, Jesus was a pretty laid back dude, turning the other cheek and all, and I think he’d even be amused by it. I guess I see it as cheeky irreverance and not slander.

I can’t help but think of the Danish artist and the Mohammed cartoons. Should he have done it? Should he have died for it? It’s very easy to take ourselves, our habits, ideologies, identities and religions very seriously and be offended by just about anything. Christianity is privileged and dominates both social and political discourse – if it can’t take jabs I think we’re in bigger trouble than is being addressed by this discussion. In the words of Oscar Wilde, “Life is too important to be taken seriously.”

I agree with you. While I can certainly see that the Zombie Jesus thing is obnoxious and tacky, I find it a little difficult to defend of the right of Christians not to be offended, the same way I find it difficult to defend the right of white people not to be offended (full disclosure: I’m white, but I’m not Christian). Christians are not part of an oppressed minority, and while that may well make them easier targets for mockery*, it’s important to remember that most of the Western world revolves around Christians. Sure, some people were posting about Zombie Jesus on facebook, but Christians also had a four-day weekend (here in the UK anyway) to celebrate their holiest day; the rest of us have to take holiday time off work, if we’re lucky enough to have it. Christians can find products relating to their celebrations in every shop, from eggs to hot cross buns, while the rest of us have to search in specialty shops in London. To be Christian, certainly in this country, is assumed to be the default.

I don’t actually think that most people mock Zombie Jesus in protest against aspects of Christianity they find offensive, and I don’t really think that it’s meant to indicate that Christians are stupid or small-minded. I see it as more light-hearted than that, as a jab at the majority, though I understand why Christians would see it differently.

* Though I was mocked by Christians all my life for being part of a minority religion, so I think mockery’s pretty universal.

Yeah, there are a lot of Christians in the western world. I guess my response to that defense would be to ask why–why would someone feel the need to mock a key tenet of someone’s religious beliefs–even if those beliefs are popular in a certain region? Surely, as someone who’s been on the receiving end of mockery, you understand that one person’s “teasing” may be a painful insult to another. Or, simply not a very nice thing to do.

It’s funny because before this post I was largely unperturbed when people referred to Easter as Zombie Jesus Day–I think it’s kind of dumb, but it isn’t a big deal. But reading comments here from people trying to explain away or justify mockery of someone’s religion by saying it’s only fair because some Christians are bigots/in the majority/can’t take a joke/have a dumb religion that is inferior to science, just really irritates me. I thought this place was a little more tolerant than that.

I don’t think I was trying to justify it – like I said, I do think it’s pretty tacky and obnoxious and certainly not a nice thing to do at all. I also didn’t mean to suggest that it’s ‘only fair’, sorry if it came off that way. I guess what I was trying to say was that it’s not necessarily right to equate this kind of thing with mockery of minority religions, the same way it doesn’t seem quite right to equate mockery of white people to mockery of people of colour. It’s to do with the fact that the system is a Christian system, so while that mockery is tasteless and stupid, in the big picture, Christians are still the ones privileged by the system. Does that make sense?

Of course, systemic privilege is little comfort to individuals whose feelings are undoubtedly hurt by nasty jokes like Zombie Jesus. I wouldn’t suggest that no one should have hurt feelings. I guess I was just trying to offer an alternative voice. Personally I’d take mockery of my religion any day if it meant mandated four-day weekends on my holy days, but I realise that’s just my take on it.

I was talking with several friends about this, mostly atheists and one other fellow liberal Christian who was offended with me. The problem we decided with “Zombie Jesus” was not so much about being funny, but that Jesus does not fit the zombie stereotype, so to speak. Zombies literally eat brains, move slowly and clumsily, look like corpses, aren’t really alive, ect. Jesus does not fit into that mold, so it falls more into the realm of an insult rather than an amusing comparison. Amusing comparison-wise, we decided you should probably go with vampire or Time Lord.

Yes! Time Lord Jesus! (And I am Christian, but not too easily offended.)

I’m repeating myself a little, but like I said on the post about P&P and zombies, adding “zombie” to something is not inherently clever or funny. It really needs to add something to the discourse or else it’s just stupid, KWIM?

It seems as though we would be well served by seeking a practical middle ground, i.e. a “live-and-let-live” tolerance of other religious. Its a little sad, though, that spiritual middle ground is so scarce. I’m not a Christina believer in the sense that I accept tenets of belief as historical facts. But I don’t believe those tenets are lies either, so I don’t find Jesus-zombie art very humorous either. Good article though.

I absolutely agree. I had several close friends and acquaintances referring to ‘Happy Zombie Jesus Day’ on their FBs and via text messages and I couldn’t quite put my finger on why it annoyed me.

I must’ve been living in a bubble because until this year I’d never heard of ‘Zombie Jesus Day’ and I have my fair share of atheist and anti-religious friends. This year it seems like everyone is saying it all the time.

I recently began to flirt with the idea that I may be an atheist. I reposted a video someone had put on Facebook called ‘Science Saved my Soul’ which really spoke to me and made me feel something. It wasn’t 24 hours later that my Grandmother was calling me in a tizzy, because one of my supposedly well meaning relatives had called her to tell her that I was a heathen atheist and I’d be burning in the fires of hell. I was so incredibly offended, not only that someone would go behind my back and gossip to my in-bad-health Grandmother about the personal contents of my Facebook, but that in this day and age, these people consider merely flirting with the thought of atheism an offense in which I should be schooled on, and quickly. To me it is personal, it is my choice, and I was incredibly angry that my relative saw fit to go over my head and smugly assume that I needed some kind of guidance on the subject. I would never, ever do that to anyone else. In fact, I have a friend who is a pentecostal, who is incredibly, strictly religious and she and I differ so much that it can be hard to even have a normal conversation about feminism, politics or anything else because our religious differences get in the way. She recently sent me an email and was upset because another friend had tried to talk her ‘out’ of her religion, and she was incredibly offended and hurt. She meant to put me on my guard by telling me that she hoped I would never presume to change her or push my views on her. I assured her I never would, that I respected her viewpoint and her faith, and she said the same. How hard is that?

I’m not a Christian, and if asked I could give you a million reasons why. But I see no reason to shit all over someone else’s religious holiday with my own insecure propaganda, insulting jokes or pictures, just because I feel like I need to prove something. I’m comfortable enough in myself that I don’t have to seem somehow ‘cool’ or ‘above’ Easter. Just because I don’t celebrate it per se does not mean that I need to judge others who do.

I totally agree (though I am a Christian). While I try not to get all butt-hurt about these kinds of jokes because I recognize that I’m not a member of an oppressed minority religion, I do find it obnoxious. I think there’s a big difference between joking about offensive aspects of a religion (or its more extreme followers) and mocking deeply sacred aspects of someone’s belief system or belief itself. I wasn’t on tumblr much yesterday. For me, it was the most sacred day in my religion, and while people are welcome to put up lolJesus gifs all day, I didn’t particularly want to see it. I often feel that in circles where I am most likely to encounter tolerance and acceptance of all other aspects of my personhood, my faith is the most disrespected. I understand where this behavior comes from, but I still find it off-putting. Rail against the ills of organized religion or small-minded Christianity all you want, but assuming that I’m stupid, ignorant, or unthinking because I have faith in God? That’s just petty.

Well said, and I agree. I was pretty sad yesterday that I couldn’t spend time with my family, doing actual Easter-y things, so the mocking made me even more sad. Normally for me it’s just another thing I can ignore, but on a year when I don’t get the loving and spiritual rebirth celebration either, it’s sort of a bummer.

Love it. I also am not religious and an deeply offended by some of the practices of some churches. BUT, I think religion gives a lot of people comfort and positivity in their lives. Do I think what they believe is real? No. But as long as they are not hurting anyone they have every right to believe what they want, just as I have a right to believe in the opposite. And those rights warrant respect.

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