Posted by Richard Rawlinson
Two seasonal events coming up: the Nine Lessons and Carols is a traditional Christmas Eve ceremony, the most famous and widely broadcast being the service from King’s College, Cambridge; and Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People, is showing for 10 nights in December at London’s Bloomsbury Theatre. A rationalist celebration of Yuletide, this year’s line-up promises music by Jonny & The Baptists (pictured) and stand-up comedy by Alexei Sayle.
Of course, members of the British Humanist Association, a non-prophet organisation, might enjoy the former, just as Christians might enjoy the latter. You don’t need to believe in angels to sing along to Robbie Williams’s Angels. And a bit of incredulous mockery doesn’t do the faithful any harm.
Though from an era of more restrained comedy, I’ve LOL’d at Dave Allen’s religious gags. Attending a funeral as a child, he recalls thinking the priest was saying: ‘In the name of the father and of the Son and into the hole he goes’. More here
There are a few gentle jokes about non-believers, too. What do you get when you cross a Jehovah’s Witness with an atheist? Someone who knocks on your door for no apparent reason.
The there’s the one about a priest and rational sceptic both up for the guillotine. Asked for his final words, the priest says: ‘I believe in God who will rescue me in my hour of need’. The executioner then pulls the cord, but the blade of the ominous contraption of death suddenly stops just short of his neck. ‘A miracle,’ gasps the crowd, and the executioner lets him go free.
Next, the rationalist is asked for his final words. He doesn’t hear the question as he’s staring intently at the guillotine. The executioner asks again to which the rationalist finally replies: ’Oh, I see your problem. You’ve got a blockage in the gear assembly, right there.’
Now to the more serious question of who is copying who at funerals, the subject for which the Nine Lessons and Carols events were a mere prelude:
Are secular funerals still too closely following the ceremonial rituals and traditions of religion? Or is the trend among religious funerals towards emphasis on eulogy and celebration of life in fact aping secularism? Are they merging into one and, if so, should they define themselves more clearly?
Footnote: more festive funeral humour