I like the joke about an insomniac agnostic dyslexic being someone who lies awake at night wondering if there is a Dog. It’s a religious joke, which is one of my favourite kinds, as well as a disability joke, which is not my favourite kind, but which, I have to admit, is still funny.
Maybe it takes a certain kind of person to laugh at a joke about disability or about God; but it takes a much more frightening kind of person to put the writer of the joke against a wall and shoot him or her, instead of looking coldly down their nose and moving on, or coming up with a counter-joke, which one imagines would be the democratic thing to do.
Speaking of jokes, I think it’s very funny that people still think of India as a democracy, when any two-bit organisation masquerading as the servant/defender of some faith or the other can boot people who speak their minds right out of their houses (or, as in the case of poor old M.F. Husain, right out of the country) as well as hold a government to ransom, all over some perceived slight to God. Who, as any good atheist will tell you, doesn’t even exist.
These days everyone is so busy killing or suing everyone else over slights, real or imagined, to one or another of their gods, that they forget what a hard time we atheists have, getting ourselves through the bitter gales of life without anybody to dump on, or at least blame.
Atheism is defined as the belief that even if God did once exist, chances are that He or She would long ago have fired Himself or Herself for incompetence, and drunk Himself or Herself to death on Ambrosial Nectar in some seedy galactic Bar, and this is not a bad thing insofar as it renders the whole Karma and Heaven vs. Hell issues moot, though it also means that anything you suffer will be in the here and now, and not in the safely distant ever afterlife. Atheists get bad press for being irreverent about other people’s gods, when in fact they have to struggle as much as everyone else to keep their faith in moments of crisis, since it would be so much easier to just be able to confess, or believe that someone else will fix everything, or deflect decision-making in the direction of some Book.
Irreverence of all kinds, not to mention free speech, is the basis not just of humour, but also of originality, creativity and thoughtfulness. It seems to be dying a slow and horrible death, if not all over the world, then certainly in this country, while piety and pseudo-piety in their ugliest forms are fed to bursting, grow tall, put on weight and proceed to throw it around, and governments stand around being sensitive to religious sentiments, otherwise known as undesirable swings in voting patterns.
Luckily there are pockets of sanity left in the world, where irreverence is not just allowed but encouraged, even though it sometimes leads to stupid lawsuits. If you’ve never had the pleasure of reading the satirical newspaper The Onion, I beg you to haul yourself over to www.theonion.com and daily take in such headlines as “Christ Kills Two, Injures Seven In Abortion-Clinic Attack” and and “15,000 Brown People Dead Somewhere”, and “Heroic PETA Commandos Kill 49, Save Rabbit”, and “New Oliver Stone 9/11 Film Introduces 'Single Plane' Theory”.
The Onion takes the pants off everyone and everything. It may run satirical headlines and stories, but they’re a lot less offensive than non-satirical headlines and stories like “Cong, Left pass buck on Taslima”.