Religious satire

Religious satire is a form of satire that refers to religious beliefs and can take the form of texts, plays, films, and parody.[6] 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.[7][8][9] Satire which targets the clergy is a type of political satire, while religious satire is that which targets religious beliefs.[6] Religious satire is also sometimes called philosophical satire, and is thought to be the result of agnosticism or atheism. Notable works of religious satire surfaced during the Renaissance, with works by Geoffrey Chaucer, Erasmus and Albrecht Dürer.

From a series of woodcuts (1545) usually referred to as the Papstspotbilder or Papstspottbilder in German or Depictions of the Papacy in English,[1] by Lucas Cranach, commissioned by Martin Luther.[2] Title: Kissing the Pope's Feet.[3] German peasants respond to a papal bull of Pope Paul III. Caption reads: "Don't frighten us Pope, with your ban, and don't be such a furious man. Otherwise we shall turn around and show you our rears."[4][5]

Religious satire has been criticised and at times censored in order to avoid offence, for example 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. This potential for censorship often leads to debates on the issue of freedom of speech such as in the case 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.

Notable examples of religious satire and satiristsEdit

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

Films and documentariesEdit


Literature and publicationsEdit

Plays and musicalsEdit



On the webEdit


  • 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 religionsEdit


Reactions, criticism and censorshipEdit

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.[13] 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.[14] 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.[15]

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.[16]

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.[citation needed]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Oberman, Heiko Augustinus (1 January 1994). "The Impact of the Reformation: Essays". Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing – via Google Books.
  2. ^ Luther's Last Battles: Politics And Polemics 1531-46 By Mark U. Edwards, Jr. Fortress Press, 2004. ISBN 978-0-8006-3735-4
  3. ^ In Latin, the title reads "Hic oscula pedibus papae figuntur"
  4. ^ "Nicht Bapst: nicht schreck uns mit deim ban, Und sey nicht so zorniger man. Wir thun sonst ein gegen wehre, Und zeigen dirs Bel vedere"
  5. ^ Mark U. Edwards, Jr., Luther's Last Battles: Politics And Polemics 1531-46 (2004), p. 199
  6. ^ a b Hodgart (2009) p.39
  7. ^ 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...

  8. ^ Clark, John R. and Motto, Anna Lydia (1973) Satire--that blasted art p.20
  9. ^ 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.

  10. ^ Editors (May 2018). "Al-Maʿarrī (Biography)". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  11. ^ a b c Quinn, Frederick (2008). The Sum of All Heresies: The Image of Islam in Western Thought. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 62–64. ISBN 978-0-19-532563-8.
  12. ^ a b c d Almond, Philip C. (1989). Heretic and Hero: Muhammad and the Victorians. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag. pp. 33–35. ISBN 3-447-02913-7.
  13. ^ Vicar supports Life of Brian ban
  14. ^ Dyke, C: Screening Scripture, pp. 238-240. Trinity Press International, 2002
  15. ^ "The Secret Life of Brian". 2007.
  16. ^ "Votes on the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill". 2006.