Jesus Never Laughed

In The Case for Christ, evangelical psychologist (and demon-believer) Dr. Gary Collins rendered this appraisal of the mental health of Jesus:

“We don’t see psychological difficulties in Jesus. He spoke clearly, powerfully and eloquently. He was brilliant and had absolutely amazing insights into human nature. He was loving but didn’t let his compassion immobilize him; he didn’t have a bloated ego, even though he was often surrounded by adoring crowds; he maintained balance despite an often demanding lifestyle; he cared deeply about people; he responded to individuals based on where they were at and what they uniquely needed.

…[D]isturbed individuals frequently show inappropriate depression, or they might be vehemently angry, or perhaps they’re plagued with anxiety. But look at Jesus: he never demonstrated inappropriate emotions.”

One might suspect this verdict was delivered with less than full clinical objectivity. But I have a question for Dr. Collins: If Jesus was the epitome of mental health, experiencing all the natural and appropriate emotions that are ours, then I have a question: Where in the Bible does he laugh?

There’s no shortage of wrath in the New Testament, no lack of righteousness or judgment or even sorrow. But is there even a single instance of laughter – of genuine, spontaneous mirth, the kind that every child experiences?

Doing a search for “laugh” or “laughter” and its likely synonyms, I found only one reference in the gospels, and it goes to establish rather the reverse point:

Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh… Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep.

—Luke 6:21-25

Not only does Jesus never laugh, it seems, but he condemns those who do, claiming that sorrow and misery will be theirs in the hereafter. And it’s not just the New Testament, but the Bible in general that continues this theme. Widening the search, we find a few references to God laughing in the Old Testament, but these are not laughs of merriment. Here are some examples:

But thou, O Lord, shalt laugh at them; thou shalt have all the heathen in derision.

—Psalms 59:8

I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh.

—Proverbs 1:26

and also:

Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.

—Ecclesiastes 7:3

Doing a Web search, I found that I’m not the only one who’s noticed this. Several Christian sites also note the lack of laughter in the Bible:

Not surprisingly, it is exactly in the same context as all the other scriptures that record God laughing. Never in joy, never during worship, never in mirth, never to be amused, only in derision against His enemies. He is not frivolous in his laughter, nor is He out of control. He laughs in judgment… It is a fearful thing to be the object of God’s laughter, or to take His laughter out of context. (source)

I had searched the scriptures to find any biblical precedent for “holy” laughter and there was none. To my amazement, I had discovered that there were surprisingly few references in the Bible to any kind of laughter, period. (source)

Thus, the Bible takes a dim view of mirth or laughter, showing much laughter as having its roots in scorn or folly. (source)

All these sites display the narrow, pinched worldview of the fundamentalist. Laughter is neither frivolous nor sinful. It’s an intrinsic part of human nature, a healthy way of expressing merriment and joy, and an appropriate response to the ironies and absurdities that are inherent in the world. It is the natural alchemy that transforms sorrow into happiness. Our lives would be flat and empty without the rich emotional color it gives them.

But the Bible, like most religious dogmatists, treats laughter as an unworthy subject. It’s not difficult to see why: in the cramped and rigidly proscribed world of fundamentalism, there is no room for irony, no room for taking either their own doctrines or the beliefs of others with any sort of light-heartedness. To laugh at something is to admit the existence of more than one way to view it, and that thought is anathema to the religious worldview that sees only in black and white. Of course, it’s not just Christian fundamentalists who feel this way; Ezra Levant helpfully provides an example of the same sentiment from the Ayatollah Khomeini:

Allah did not create man so that he could have fun. The aim of creation was for mankind to be put to the test through hardship and prayer. An Islamic regime must be serious in every field. There are no jokes in Islam. There is no humor in Islam. There is no fun in Islam. There can be no fun and joy in whatever is serious.

But we atheists can laugh. Not just at the follies and absurdities of religion, which are not in short supply, but at ourselves as well. The battles we face are serious, true, but as soon as we take them so seriously that we can no longer laugh, we have crossed the line from impassioned activism into dangerous self-righteousness.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • mikespeir

    I’ve often said that the Gospels express about as much humanity as an Air Force technical order. As a Christian I made excuses for that, but it was obvious to me even then. Of course, that’s doesn’t mean that Jesus–if he really existed–didn’t laugh. He must have. (Goodness, I hope so!) So, why didn’t the Evangelists tell us about it? I guess they didn’t want to make him look flippant. But, like you said, Ebon, “Laughter is neither frivolous nor sinful.” Indeed, if there’s anything that’s truly holy, it’s laughter.

  • 2-D Man

    That’s a good post, Ebon. On that note:

    God is tired and worn out. So he speaks to St. Peter, “You know, I need a vacation. Got any suggestions where I should go?”

    St. Peter, thinking, nods his head, then says, “How about Jupiter? It’s nice and warm there this time of the year.”

    God shakes His head before saying, “No. Too much gravity. You know how that hurts my back.”

    “Hmmm,” St. Peter reflects. “Well, how about Mercury?”

    “No way!” God mutters, “It’s way too hot for me there!”

    “I’ve got it,” St. Peter says, his face lighting up. “How about going Down to Earth for your vacation?”

    Chuckling, God remarks, “Are you kidding? Two thousand years ago I went there, had an affair with some nice Jewish girl, and they’re STILL talking about it!” (source)

  • John

    The work of God, which is God(Christ) in us, is no laughing matter, but for those who have received it, we are full of joy. As Ecclesiastes states, “Ecc 3:4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
    (conveniently, you left this one out)

    Just taking this from your post

    “Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep.”

    This is for you atheists that are laughing at The Bible, which you ridicule without understanding. Besides, isn’t it an oxymoron, an atheist understanding of the Bible?

    Good one 2d-man; made me laugh.

  • John

    Hey Ebon, I did not like “Tipping Point.” As in all books, I give it 100 pages, if I don’t like it I don’t finish it.

  • http://www.myspace.com/driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    Besides, isn’t it an oxymoron, an atheist understanding of the Bible?

    Absolutely not! “Understanding” is not gnosticism no matter how often you want to sell it that way.
    On the OP: This just seems to be one more natural human behaviour that the bible condemns. I must confess to never having noticed it before but somehow it doesn’t surprise me. That being said, I have met plenty of moderately religious people who can be extremely humerous about their own faith given the opportunity.

  • http://www.myspace.com/driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    That was humorous obviously. When will I.E include a spell checker?

  • heliobates

    Besides, isn’t it an oxymoron, an atheist understanding of the Bible?

    One of your Christian brothers accidently left his secret decoder ring at a movie theatre.

    We’ve been killing ourselves laughing ever since.

    As in all books, I give it 100 pages, if I don’t like it I don’t finish it.

    John the autodidact: “Everything I need to know I learn from reading the Table of Contents.”

    You base your understanding of an argument on whether or not you “like” the presentation? That explains so much.

  • http://www.wayofthemind.org/ Pedro Timóteo

    Why does this remind me of The Name of the Rose?

  • John

    heliobates,

    My daughter loaned me the book, she said she liked it. I didn’t. 100 pages is enough for me. There is nothing new in the book. “The presentation” wasn’t the problem, the authors assumptions were.

    There is nothing wrong with being autodidactic, perhaps you should consider being autodidactic yourself, maybe you will learn to do some of your own thinking rather than repeating phrases you’ve read elsewhere. Yes, I am a proud autodidact, especially concerning things of The Bible.

    My “decoder ring” is The Bible.

  • http://www.myspace.com/driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    There is nothing wrong with being autodidactic

    I agree with you there John, with the caveat that to self direct your own learning taking what you read as “gospel” (pun intended) should be avoided. First cultivate critical thinking skills and apply them.
    By the way just to stay on topic, know any good xian jokes?

  • bipolar2

    ** Magical thinking and supernaturalism thrive on junk-food faith **

    Who cares what lacrymose Jesus did or didn’t do? The “laughing philosopher” is Democratus.

    Everything comes about according to necessity . . . . The goal of life is serenity
    (euthymia) . . . . The qualities of things are only . . . atoms and the void.
    ~ Democritus 500 BCE

    The de-deification of nature is one task for the next thousand years.

    bipolar2

  • Alex Weaver

    …[D]isturbed individuals frequently show inappropriate depression, or they might be vehemently angry, or perhaps they’re plagued with anxiety. But look at Jesus: he never demonstrated inappropriate emotions.”

    And cursing a fig tree doesn’t count?

  • http://www.myspace.com/driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    And cursing a fig tree doesn’t count?

    No, they’re pretty damn annoying when they won’t fruit in the english climate.

  • heliobates

    maybe you will learn to do some of your own thinking rather than repeating phrases you’ve read elsewhere.

    Given our “history” here, you have zero basis for levelling that particular accusation. I mean really, John, do I need to bring up the WaPo article AGAIN? How much “thinking” was necessary to expose your position as utterly uninformed?

    Besides, I knew that you wouldn’t understand the joke I was making. Just as you don’t understand the ridiculous irony that arises when someone with your demonstrated lack of comprehension lectures others about “true meanings.” And hey, how about when I referred to this blog’s owner by name and you, utterly incapable of inferring meaning from context, started talking about the biblical Adam? Good times!

    Your entire, narrow schtick consists of trying to point out atheist intellectual failings, but you said you put down a book, implying its argument is flawed, because you didn’t like it. Or tried to dismiss a wikipedia article because… well we’re not exactly sure why–you probably didn’t like it either. Then, during the same conversation, you tried to reject another book-length argument you’d never read, by implying its author is gay. At what point in your self-directed learning do you actually intend to learn anything?

    The problem isn’t that DA regulars “believe everything they read”, it’s that you seem to only read what you believe. Random Heraclitus quotes don’t get you out of the hole you insist on digging for yourself.

  • Polly

    The whole idea of taking excerpts of speeches and anecdotes based on hearsay (even xians acknowledge two of the Gospels are not from eyewitnesses) and trying to perform any kind of psychological analysis is silly.

    Jesus did act rather strangely when we purposely insulted those following hin in order to drive them away, or when he called the syro-phoenician woman a dog or when he refused to explain to the ignorant masses that “drinking his blood and eating his flesh” was just symbolism (if indeed he meant it symbolically). But, out of context and 2,000 years and a whole culture removed, who can say? It’s a pointless endeavor. Personally, if there was a man who did these things, I’d think at the very least he was eccentric. If he claimed to be god and then suddenlt refused, on principle, to offer demonstrations of his divine powers when confronted with skeptics like the Jewish leaders then I would find his mental health suspect or at least his integrity.

  • John

    A joke for you

    Dwight Eisenhower died and knocked at the pearly gates of heaven. Soon the door opened and St Peter appeared. “Well, asked Peter, welcome to heaven, but please tell me about your married life. “I have always stayed faithful to Mamie,” replied Eisenhower.
    In that case, I will give you a Cadillac to use on the streets of Heaven.

    Soon after, Nixon arrived, and St. Peter asked him about his married life.
    “Well,” replied Nixon, “I have had one or two affairs.”
    St. Peter gave Nixon a Chevy to drive.

    Awhile later, Khrushchev arrived.
    “How was your married life?” asked St. Peter.
    Oh, I have had so many affairs; I can’t even begin to count them.”
    “Then I will give you this motorcycle to drive,” said Peter.

    A little while later, Nixon noticed Eisenhower on the side of a road.
    “Can I help,” asked Nixon?
    “I need a ride to a gas station; I ran out of gas.”
    “Hop in, I’ll give you a ride,” said Nixon.

    On their way to the gas station, Nixon and Eisenhower happened upon a terrible scene. Khrushchev had run into a tree. His motorcycle was totally demolished and Khrushchev was bleeding and bruised. Not only this, but Khrushchev was laughing with tears rolling down his cheeks.
    Nikita, what happened? This isn’t funny; why are you laughing so hard?” asked Eisenhower.
    “I just saw the Pope and he was walking,” replied Khrushchev.

  • John

    Sorry the joke was not posted properly

    Dwight Eisenhower died and knocked at the pearly gates of heaven. Soon the door opened and St Peter appeared. “Well, asked Peter, welcome to heaven, but please tell me about your married life. “I have always stayed faithful to Mamie,” replied Eisenhower.
    In that case, I will give you a Cadillac to use on the streets of Heaven.

    Soon after, Nixon arrived, and St. Peter asked him about his married life.
    “Well,” replied Nixon, “I have had one or two affairs.”
    St. Peter gave Nixon a Chevy to drive.

    Awhile later, Khrushchev arrived.
    “How was your married life?” asked St. Peter.
    Oh, I have had so many affairs; I can’t even begin to count them.”
    “Then I will give you this motorcycle to drive,” said Peter.

    A little while later, Nixon noticed Eisenhower on the side of a road.
    “Can I help,” asked Nixon?
    “I need a ride to a gas station; I ran out of gas.”
    “Hop in, I’ll give you a ride,” said Nixon.

    On their way to the gas station, Nixon and Eisenhower happened upon a terrible scene. Khrushchev had run into a tree. His motorcycle was totally demolished and Khrushchev was bleeding and bruised. Not only this, but Khrushchev was laughing with tears rolling down his cheeks.
    Nikita, what happened? This isn’t funny, and why are you laughing so hard?” asked Eisenhower.
    “I just saw the Pope and he was walking,” replied Khrushchev.

  • http://masksoferis.wordpress.com/ Masks of Eris

    Three theologians walks into a bar.

    You’d think the second would have ducked.

  • MS (Quixote)

    It’s about time we injected a sense of humor into this debate, which reminds me, I had a dream last night in which I died and went to heaven. As I entered heaven, I saw Ebonmuse off to the side. He was jumping up and down, due to something chained to his ankle. It appeared the thing was biting his rear-end.

    I asked St. Peter what the deal was. He said Ebonmuse had to pay for some of the things he had done while on earth, and this was his punishment. I whispered under my breath to St. Peter that I had known Ebonmuse back on earth and this seemed appropriate.

    Next I saw Mike Speir. Same deal. Something strapped to his ankle, biting his posterior. I winked at St. Pete. He winked back.

    But then I saw OMGF. My jaw dropped. He had Angelina Jolie strapped to his leg. OMGF was jumping up and down as happy as could be, having the time of his life.

    I pulled St. Peter off to the side. “St. Peter,” I said, “I get Ebon’s and Mike’s deal, but I’m flabbergasted at OMGF. I remember him from earth too, and he gets Angelina Jolie? What’s up???????” St. Peter winked again at me. “Angelina’s got a lot to pay for!”

    :)

  • http://anexerciseinfutility.blogspot.com Tommykey

    When you read the accounts of Jesus in the NT, he does seem to come off as extremely impatient at times. It certainly does not square with all of those paintings that depict Jesus in serene repose.

  • http://gretachristina.typepad.com/ Greta Christina

    Interesting post. What’s jumping out at me is the new spin it gives on the line from the Beatitudes:

    Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh

    If what laughter mostly means in the Bible is scorn and derision and mockery, it sure makes this passage look different. The comfort it offers to those who weep isn’t that they’ll find joy. The comfort it offers is that they’ll be in a position to make mocking, derisive fun of others. Nice.

  • heliobates

    MSQ: who was Rachel Weisz strapped to?

    Please, please Universal Unchanging Laws of Logic™, let it be me!

  • John

    The gravely ill Pope was pushed in his wheelchair onto the Papal balcony overlooking St. Peter’s Square. Thousands of cheering people were there awaiting the blessings from The Pope. The Pope’s personal assistant, grabbing the microphone, said to the crowd, “I have an important request to ask of you. You know the Pope is very sick. What His Holiness needs is a new heart. I ask for one volunteer to give up his or her heart so that the Pope may live.” Upon this, the crowd cheered even louder, people saying, “Take mine, take mine, take mine.” The Pope was moved to tears.
    Then the assistant, who was also moved, and waving a feather in his hand, said, “truly this is a most touching moment.” To do this fairly, I will release this bird feather in the air, and the person whose head it lands on will donate his heart to The Pope.
    With this the assistant blew the feather into the air above the crowd. Slowly the feather descended, carried on thin wisps of wind. The crowd cheered affectionately as the feather continued its slow descent. Upon nearing a man in the middle of the crowd, the feather rose abruptly; carried up by the frantic blowing of the man. Again and again the feather bounced along among the crowd, its down movement thwarted by the frantic blowing of individuals.

  • http://scaryreasoner.wordpress.com SteveC

    Oh, come now. There’s *plenty* of laughter in the Bible. It is however, almost always preceded by the letter ‘s’.

  • http://scaryreasoner.wordpress.com SteveC

    e.g:

    scameron@zuul ~]$ grep laughter bible.txt
    from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer, and of the kings that were
    with a great slaughter at Gibeon, and chased them along the
    had made an end of slaying them with a very great slaughter,
    a very great slaughter. Thus the children of Ammon were
    07:015:008 And he smote them hip and thigh with a great slaughter: and he
    slaughter; for there fell of Israel thirty thousand footmen.
    Philistines, and there hath been also a great slaughter among
    slaughter.
    (and it goes on like this.)

  • Polly

    @SteveC,
    Perfect.

  • Mathew Wilder

    @ Pedro: I was thinking exactly the same thing.

    @ Polly: You are correct. A worthless endeavor.

    Heliobates FTW!

    @ Greta: which squares with what Aquinas said will be a major source of joy for believers in heaven – watching sinners suffer in hell.

  • John

    SteveC,

    Do you think this is literal?

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    @MS,
    If Angelina has things to atone for, then all the better for me. Any other beautiful women can use me to do their atoning as well. I’m equal opportunity.

  • Christopher

    Here’s one my best friend in college told me:

    Q: What did Jesus say after the sword came forth from his mouth and cut down the forces of the Beast (Revelation 19:15)?

    A: “Fuck! I just cut my own throat!” and then fell off his white horse and died!

  • heliobates

    Any other beautiful women can use me to do their atoning as well.

    Rachel Weisz is gonna atone with ME, OMGF. Just so we’re clear on this. I have the Universal Unchanging Laws of Logic™ on my side so don’t fuck with me.

  • heliobates

    …and then fell off his white horse and died…

    AGAIN!

  • Mathew Wilder

    @ John: what is God commanding the Israelites to slaughter innocent people supposed to be a metaphor for, if it’s not to be taken literally?

    Besides which, according to the texts, the ancient Hebrews supposedly took the commands quite literally (although, I must not that there is no archeological evidence for the massive slaughters, so your book paints the Hebrews and god as quite vile and blood-thirsty, and also can’t get it’s history straight).

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    Funny post, funnier thread, and OMGF is certainly hoping Angelina racks up lots of sins before she dies… but the post is not that cogent or convincing. Here is the argument summarized with a different biological function to illustrate its silliness:

    1) The Bible gives no mention of Jesus pooping.

    2) Therefore, Jesus never pooped.

    3) Pooping and the value of regular bowel movements are not important in Christianity and Islam because they are rigid, dogmatic systems.

  • ComplexStuff
  • Neil

    Ok, ok….my current favorite…

    A priest, a rapist, and a pedophile walk into a bar…and that’s just the first guy!

  • Alex Siyer

    Another joke:

    Jesus is in the Cross shouting at the top of his voice – Peter! Peter!

    Peter run to his Master side while the the roman try to stop him -Peter! Peter!

    Peter: I`m coming Master- said Peter while the soldiers Merciless beat him -Peter! Peter!

    (when the apostle finally arrives)

    Peter: Master, I`m here…

    -Look Peter! Your house look great from here!

  • Justin

    This is for you atheists that are laughing at The Bible, which you ridicule without understanding. Besides, isn’t it an oxymoron, an atheist understanding of the Bible?

    I understand enough of the Bible to see it is filled with violence and hate. I understand enough to see that it is not a infallible rulebook, guide or even a set of Cliff’s Notes for how to live one’s life.

    If you think we non-believers cannot understand the Bible, how do you expect us to convert? Do we have to believe to understand the Bible, and do we have to understand the Bible to believe?

    You’ve come onto this site thinking that none of us have done our homework, so you’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

    My “decoder ring” is The Bible.

    I think it’s time for you to buy another box of Wheaties.

  • http://verywide.net/ Moody834

    OTOH, but on topic, may I introduce you to Laughing Buddha!

    Cheers!

  • http://bluehydra.blogspot.com/ Hydra

    There may be no laughing in Islam, but you certainly had me laughing in agreement, Ebon. :D Keep up the great posts.

  • javaman

    also building on cl’s comment -Was jesus a virgin when he died ? Did he get erections in the morning and at erotic sights?

  • http://scaryreasoner.wordpress.com SteveC

    @John,

    Do I take it literally? Well, I grepped for laughter in the Bible, and, O! Miracle! I found myself laughing at what I found!

    How’s that for literal?

  • http://anadder.com Michael

    Pedro, I was thinking the same — in fact I think The Name of the Rose is a great cure for religion (almost as much as the Bible!)

  • Alex Weaver

    Or tried to dismiss a wikipedia article because… well we’re not exactly sure why–you probably didn’t like it either.

    Because the popular imagination dramatically overestimates the problems with Wikipedia’s accuracy and reliability, due to an exaggeratedly pessimistic view of the intellectual adequacy and integrity of average internet users and to some reasonable hypotheses and speculations about the potential weaknesses of the site format and concept…coupled to a blind, flat, unsupported assumption that absolutely nothing has been done to remedy them. The person who mindlessly dismisses and riffs on Wikipedia apparently exists in a world with no “permalink”s, no “citation needed” tags, no lists of reference or in-line citations, no semi-protected or protected page statuses, no “this article needs attention from an expert” flags, no “this article appears to contradict itself or another article” flags, and absolutely no genuinely knowledgeable people who use the internet and have time or inclination to contribute to such a project.

    Or, as I presume is the case for John, they’re dishonestly using these perceived failings in order to dismiss an argument that’s devastating to their case, without having to actually engage with it.

  • Christopher

    heliobates,

    …AGAIN!

    But he can’t use the Resurrection spell again – that’s limited to one per “god”-man.

  • Alex Weaver

    Funny post, funnier thread, and OMGF is certainly hoping Angelina racks up lots of sins before she dies… but the post is not that cogent or convincing. Here is the argument summarized with a different biological function to illustrate its silliness:

    1) The Bible gives no mention of Jesus pooping.

    2) Therefore, Jesus never pooped.

    3) Pooping and the value of regular bowel movements are not important in Christianity and Islam because they are rigid, dogmatic systems.

    It is physically possible for a human to never laugh, though it says a fair amount about either his life or his personality if he doesn’t.

    It is not physically possible, no matter his life circumstances or personality, for a human to live with defecating (except, perhaps, on an IV, which weren’t around at the time).

  • Mathew Wilder

    @ Michael – Yeah, I wish I could make all my religious family members and friends read the book. It’s very dense, but the whole plot development serves to underscore the major theme of the book. Eco is a master writer to be able to use form to support theme, and not just use exposition. I gave the book to my dad as a Father’s Day present, telling him it was a medieval murder mystery in a monastery, which really seems up his alley, since he likes historical fiction. The book is basically a primer in skepticism and the human ability to see patterns where there are none. I wonder if he has read it yet? It’s one of my favorite books. You also learn a lot of history from it too. Eco is one smart dude.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    cl, your comment is a superb example of a fallacious argument from silence. You say that, even though the New Testament never depicts Jesus as laughing, he might have laughed on some occasion that’s not recorded in the text and therefore I can’t be justified in drawing the conclusions I did.

    I hope you realize that you can admit literally any conclusion you like if you decide to base an argument on purely hypothetical evidence. Using your reasoning, I could argue that we can’t say the invasion of Iraq was unjustified, because Saddam might have had weapons of mass destruction that we never found and therefore it’s fallacious to denounce the war based on a lack of evidence for such weapons.

    This post is intended as a response to Christian believers who claim that Jesus was the perfect human, the epitome of mental and psychological health. It’s entirely reasonable to point out that the Bible’s depiction of Jesus omits an entire basic aspect of human experience: not some obscure facet of mental functioning, but simple, spontaneous laughter, the kind that every normal person has in their life, the kind that even a child understands. Sure, maybe Jesus was a real cut-up when he was with the apostles, but you’re not entitled to simply assume that. At most, you could say that the Bible’s picture of Jesus’ humanity is incomplete; a piece is missing, and we don’t know whether that absence is unintentional or deliberate. But what I find more disturbing, and what in my mind tips the scales toward the latter possibility, is the view of laughter in the Bible in general. As my sources – Christian sources – have observed, the Bible has a decidedly negative depiction of laughter. It never depicts God as laughing along with his creation, finding amusement in our follies, or taking delight in the things that give us merriment. To the contrary, the only unambiguous depictions of God laughing in the Bible are laughs not of pleasure, but of scorn – of harsh judgment and contempt. I find this disturbing. Don’t you?

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    ..your comment is a superb example of a fallacious argument from silence.

    I’m on point then, because it was intended to parody this post, which I think is a superb example of a fallacious argument from silence.

    You say that, even though the New Testament never depicts Jesus as laughing, he might have laughed on some occasion that’s not recorded in the text and therefore I can’t be justified in drawing the conclusions I did.

    Really? Did I actually say that? Because I don’t think I did, either in this thread or in the entry I wrote about this post on my own blog. I mean I’m down to debate, but let’s keep it to actual arguments I made.

  • heliobates

    I’m on point then, because it was intended to parody this post, which I think is a superb example of a fallacious argument from silence.

    I’ve observed that you’re a fairly careful reader, cl, so could you explain how Ebon’s post isn’t an answer to Dr. Gary Collins assertions about Jesus’ mental fitness?

    I may be too charitable, but that’s what Adam was rebutting.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    Heliobates,

    ..could you explain how Ebon’s post isn’t an answer to Dr. Gary Collins assertions about Jesus’ mental fitness?

    Ebonmuse’s post is an answer to Dr. Gary Collins’ assertions about Jesus’ mental fitness. I just find it unconvincing and logically flawed.

    Ebonmuse said,

    This post is intended as a response to Christian believers who claim that Jesus was the perfect human, the epitome of mental and psychological health.

    I understand that, and I still object to the selective de-emphasis of passages that don’t seem to fit squarely with the desired conclusions, which do not logically entail the given premises, which themselves are open to valid criticism.

  • heliobates

    I just find it unconvincing and logically flawed.

    So what supports Gary Collins’ position then? What passages is he “selectively de-emphasizing”?

    I checked your blog (and still owe you a discussion about the GITM post), but didn’t see you elaborate on this.

  • heliobates

    “He” should be “Adam”, not “Gary Collins”. Sorry.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    Heliobates,

    So what supports Gary Collins’ position then?

    Well, I’m not so sure that I have to offer support for Collins’ position just to be skeptical of Ebonmuse’s, do I?

    What passages is (Ebonmuse) “selectively de-emphasizing”?

    Every passage in scripture that mentions mirth or laughter in a positive light. I could and probably should compose a list.

    Ebonmuse told me this a few comments back:

    Sure, maybe Jesus was a real cut-up when he was with the apostles, but you’re not entitled to simply assume that.

    I agree, and that’s why I would never write an essay titled “Jesus Was A Real Cut-Up When He Was With The Apostles.” BTW, if I can’t and don’t assume such, on what grounds does Ebonmuse get to assume Jesus never laughed?

  • http://anexerciseinfutility.blogspot.com Tommykey

    I want to hear an answer to this question from Christians:

    Do you think it is possible that Jesus ever farted in the company of other people? He was human, right? Therefore, he had to have “cut the cheese” at least a few times.

  • http://thereisnobeep.blogspot.com/ heliobates

    Well, I’m not so sure that I have to offer support for Collins’ position just to be skeptical of Ebonmuse’s, do I?

    I think you missed my point. Probably my bad. I’m trying to entice you into giving more detail, not trying to snark at you.

    Every passage in scripture that mentions mirth or laughter in a positive light. I could and probably should compose a list.

    Since you’re arguing the contrary position, it would be nice if you tossed us a bone. If there’s such a long list, hey, throw top two at us and we can fight over them.

    BTW, if I can’t and don’t assume such, on what grounds does Ebonmuse get to assume Jesus never laughed?

    You have a point about the title of the article, but the whole argument is not vacuous (my new word!), as you make it out to be. Set the title aside, and the rest makes the point it’s trying to make–not that Jesus never laughed, but:

    …At most, you could say that the Bible’s picture of Jesus’ humanity is incomplete; a piece is missing, and we don’t know whether that absence is unintentional or deliberate. But what I find more disturbing, and what in my mind tips the scales toward the latter possibility, is the view of laughter in the Bible in general.

  • http://chromiumoxidegreen.blogspot.com Maria

    I find this a fascinating observation. Even if it might be somewhat shaky to extrapolate it to the mental condition of a hypothetical Jesus, it’s considerably more difficult to avoid concluding that the fact reflects poorly on the authors. They could have, as you say, have been so deleriously self-righteous as to have been unable to tolerate, or they could have been trying to create a superhuman image for Jesus, as being above such mundane things as happiness, they could have been trying to control those who would receive the message, keep them from enjoying life too much…with all of the various editors over the centuries it could be a mix of all the speculationsI can come up with in five minutes, and then some.

  • Brad

    Great jokes 2-D Man, John, and MS Quixote. Following up on that Angelina Jolie bit – it just so happens that she is a secular. (She also appears to be a very charitable, humanistic woman.) When asked “Is there a God?” she once replied:

    Hmm… For some people. I hope so, for them. For the people who believe in it, I hope so. There doesn’t need to be a God for me. There’s something in people that’s spiritual, that’s godlike. I don’t feel like doing things just because people say things, but I also don’t really know if it’s better to just not believe in anything, either.

    I’d also like to echo Polly’s idea that trying to perform a psychological analysis on a supposed man with only alleged, vague writings and excerpts is a fruitless endeavor. So I agree with cl that your argument, Ebonmuse, is only a very skeletal one as presented here. You seem to say that since Jesus is not written about as laughing in the Bible, then “Jesus Never Laughed” (as fictional or real character), so we can conclude something negative about his psychological state. cl called this your “fallacious argument from silence.” Furthermore, cl implied that some conventional, basic human things about Jesus – such as laughing, or pooping, or even (yes, Tommykey) passing gas – did not need being written down as they should be assumed of any human being.

    For your argument to work, I think you need to expand on a partially hidden assumption I suspect is already in your case. Make a valid explanation of why, given some set of agreeable Christian exegetical/theological premises, we should logically expect the Bible to have scenes where Jesus laughed in a positive tone, and then the conclusion follows that the Bible doesn’t live up to its standards as being directed from an all-good, all-powerful, all-knowing god. I think one may go about constructing this explanation from the fact that laughter is a remarkably meaningful and fundamental part of being human, that God would have the desire to reach us through all the most powerful “human” ways, and so it follows from God’s desires and all-powerfulness that he would have made certain Jesus demonstrated a sense of humor that would be written about in the gospels. That’s at least the direction I would attempt to go in.

    I also don’t think cl will be swayed by the fact you corroborated your observations of the Bible with other Christians’ similar observations. It’s awesome rhetoric, but lacking in logical rigor that would work reasonably towards your conclusion that the Bible almost exclusively depicts mirth in a decidedly evil tone. cl says you downplay the quotes that actually do depict mirth in a positive sense, and says he probably should list these. (On the other hand, I agree totally with your conclusion that the fundamentalist “no fun in religion” idea is horrible and that atheists’ freedom to laugh is good.)

    Well, I say: if you want to counterargue with Ebonmuse, cl, then it’s incumbent upon you to present the stronger case that the Bible does positively portray mirth, and hopefully justify as well where the Bible portrays it negatively. (As, perhaps, metaphor or “progressive revelation.”)

    P.S. cl, I remember I still owe you a good response to your TGTCA and GITM response articles. I should get right back on that tomorrow evening. I also want to remark that your presence here has considerably moved me to try being a more careful and understanding debater here. :)

  • John

    Right on Polly,
    “even xians acknowledge two of the Gospels are not from eyewitnesses) and trying to perform any kind of psychological analysis is silly.”

    As I have said before, The Bible is not to be taken literally. I know the earth is more than 5700 years old. As George Fox said some 300 years ago, Christ’s second coming will be in man. I’ll add to that and say His first coming was/is in man.

    Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are the authors, but not the writers(scribes) Same goes for Moses.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    Brad,

    I was about to post an already lengthy response when I saw you’d left a comment. Thanks for the good words, man. I really appreciate it. You said,

    I’d also like to echo Polly’s idea that trying to perform a psychological analysis on a supposed man with only alleged, vague writings and excerpts is a fruitless endeavor.

    I agree, and to this effect I said, “looking at scripture from nearly two milennia past and thinking we can make any semblance of a reliable psychological evaluation about some character contained therein is our first departure from rationalism.”

    I also don’t think cl will be swayed by the fact you corroborated your observations of the Bible with other Christians’ similar observations.

    You’re absolutely correct. Why should I accept any argument from authority?

    heliobates,

    I don’t think the argument is vacuous. I haven’t seen anything on this site that I would call vacuous, save for a few comments here and there. My main gripes with this argument are that it is near pure speculation, it does not support the charge that the Bible holds a negative view of laughter, and it misleads people by insinuating Jesus condemns laughter.

    But everyone jumps to conclusions and we all wear rose-colored glasses. By the end of Ebonmuse’s essay, he is writing,

    Laughter is neither frivolous nor sinful.

    The implication is that the Bible or the default Christian position contends otherwise, when they clearly don’t. It is only the implications derived from Ebonmuse’s sources that permit this idea of laughter being frivolous or sinful. We’ve gone from arguing against what the Bible actually permits to arguing against a caricature of what the Bible actually permits.

    You quoted this portion of Ebonmuse’s response to me:

    At most, you could say that the Bible’s picture of Jesus’ humanity is incomplete; a piece is missing, and we don’t know whether that absence is unintentional or deliberate. But what I find more disturbing, and what in my mind tips the scales toward the latter possibility, is the view of laughter in the Bible in general.

    Where I agree with you is that the biblical account is certainly disparate, and I agree that the Bible is curiously silent about this issue of Jesus and laughter. IMO, Ebonmuse hit the nail on the head when he called my original comment a fallacious argument from silence. Ebonmuse correctly noted that I do not enjoy the liberty to assume “Jesus was a real cut-up when with the apostles,” which of course I never stated. Similarly, since the Bible is curiously silent on the issue, Ebonmuse does not enjoy the liberty to assume Jesus was an overly stolid buzzkill all the time, either, and I believe this undermines a decent part of his argument. Since the Bible is silent on the issue, we can’t really be doing all this inferring. Bad things happen when we take potentiality and run with it.

    I don’t think it is fair at all to take Luke 6:21-25 out of context to concoct an argument that Jesus actually condemns laughter. As one might expect, the passages are arranged in a way that renders their context unclear. Jesus is speaking in the context of discernment between authentic prophets and false prophets, and I’ll leave it up to the more inquisitive folks to read the passage in its entirety and context and decide whether they agree or disagree that Luke 6:21-25 can be interpreted as a condemnation of laughter.

    So it is this flawed sequence of ideas that lead up to what I feel is a false conclusion:

    ..the Bible has a decidedly negative depiction of laughter.

    Hogwash! That the Bible holds some inherently negative view of laughter! Many times Proverbs urges “cheerful words” and admonishes us to be “joyful in heart,” and these things reasonably imply laughter and light-heartedness. Ebonmuse gives only 2 or 3 quotes to build his case and omits the many, many verses that paint a different picture. For example, the writer of the Ecclesiastes does, at one point, say “sorrow is better than laughter” but the same writer also notes that there is “a time to laugh,” (Eccl. 3:4) and that, “A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work,” (Eccl. 2:24) and that, “I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil — this is the gift of God.” (Eccl. 3:12,13) See also 9:7 “Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for it is now that God favors what you do.” Here we find ample mention in just this chapter of things that bring merriment.

    Besides – this is all really a pretty moot debate.

    All I wanted to point out is that this is an argument from speculative silence entirely, and I just find it interesting how people absorb things like this into their reality with little or no filtering. If a Christian advanced such a loose argument here, you all would scurry him out with his tail between his legs, and rightly so.

  • Tommy

    Wow, that’s something I never recall hearing in church! Jesus never laughed. Wow. Wish they would have covered that two decades ago, then I could have gotten the ball rolling on my Atheism a lot sooner.

  • Leum

    [pseudo-theologian]But Ebon, the fact that Jesus Christ is never shown to laugh is just proof of God’s sense of humor. Only a being of infinite jest would portray Himself as without humor. After years of studying the so-called “problem of no laughter” we have learned that, far from casting doubt on Christ’s mental health or mirth, it only shows, even more so, the extent of God’s awesome, joyous laughter.[/pseudo-theologian]

  • Crankgst

    I disagree. I believe there are entire books dedicated to such analysis. Case in point: On The Origin Of Consciousness In The Breakdown Of The Bicameral Mind (by Dr. Julian Jaynes). That’s all I’ve read but you can probably find more. If we don’t analyse the mindset of those horrible, awful people who wrote the bible, we are ignoring a key element of our assault on unreason.

  • http://beyond-school.org Clay

    You noticed too.

    I’ve always been willing to give Jesus credit for at least an irony bordering on sarcasm in his exasperated (King James) tone when his thick-headed disciples didn’t get his parables. I always pictured the old V-8 head-slap when reading his reactions.

    And correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t Umberto Eco point to a similar insight in “The Name of the Rose”?

    And finally, this is one reason this lived-in-and-taught-Asian-history-and-philosophy-in-China guy has since that time favored both Chinese “religion” (if you can call Taoism that, since it’s non-theistic) – especially the eminently laughing Chaung-Tse – and the easily laughing (and remarkable guilt- and hangup-free) Chinese people themselves.
    t
    When was the last time you read about a Taoist or Buddhist suicide bomber or assassin? Those are monotheist specialties.

    Nice post.

  • http://beyond-school.org Clay

    I have to add, after reading some attempts to deny your point, Ebon, that the textual argument aside, it’s hard to deny (excepting the pop concert mega-church phenomenon selling its soul to keep customers) that churches themselves are historically serious and gloomy places, and the moral fixation against dancing, drinking, sex and other pleasures are of a piece with the morbidity of this faith.

    I have the feeling things may have been different in the days before Constantine, when there were “gnostic” sects – particularly that of Valentinus – that worshiped not the Jesus on the Cross (a horribly morbid, suffering-obsessed, fear-based fetish), but the Good Shepherd. I’ll take the Shepherd any day. You can keep the Cross.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    I’d also like to echo Polly’s idea that trying to perform a psychological analysis on a supposed man with only alleged, vague writings and excerpts is a fruitless endeavor. So I agree with cl that your argument, Ebonmuse, is only a very skeletal one as presented here.

    Point taken, Brad, but don’t mistake my argument as saying more than I intend it to. My title for this post shouldn’t be construed as saying “Jesus The Historical Human Being Never Laughed” – if for no other reason, because I highly doubt there was such a person. It’s more along the lines of “Jesus The Literary Character Never Laughed”, which is undeniably true, given the textual evidence that has come down to us. It’s part of my point that Christians, much as cl is doing, often assume there’s a whole rich vein of human experience in Jesus’ life that the Bible doesn’t tell us about, but I say that we’re not entitled to make that assumption on the basis of the rather threadbare text that we possess. It’s always been part of the appeal of the Jesus character that people can read their own best instincts and desires into him.

    Make a valid explanation of why, given some set of agreeable Christian exegetical/theological premises, we should logically expect the Bible to have scenes where Jesus laughed in a positive tone, and then the conclusion follows that the Bible doesn’t live up to its standards as being directed from an all-good, all-powerful, all-knowing god. I think one may go about constructing this explanation from the fact that laughter is a remarkably meaningful and fundamental part of being human, that God would have the desire to reach us through all the most powerful “human” ways, and so it follows from God’s desires and all-powerfulness that he would have made certain Jesus demonstrated a sense of humor that would be written about in the gospels.

    Yes, that’s very much what I was going for. Possibly I should have been more explicit about it. My argument is that, if human beings were created in God’s image, and more particularly if Jesus displays the supreme apex of human character, then we should expect him to live and respond in ways that are normal for healthy human beings, and to interact with us in the ways that human beings interact with each other. The Bible doesn’t depict Jesus as breathing air, either, but if he was a human being it’s safe to assume he breathed.

    But laughter is not in this category. It is not a mere biological function, but a volitional act. If the Bible is meant to be sending us a message – if it’s meant as the template to teach us how to be human and how God expects us to live – then I would expect that it would capture the full range of human emotional experience, and to show that God, just like us, is capable of experiencing merriment and humor. The fact that it does neither of these things, and in fact depicts laughter only as a cruel act, the mocking laughter of the victor’s judgment, is something that I find eerie and disturbing and not at all reflective of how humans should live.

  • mikespeir

    It’s always been part of the appeal of the Jesus character that people can read their own best instincts and desires into him.

    Google (images) “Laughing Jesus” and see what you get. You’ll find a number of dreamed-up pieces of artwork portraying Jesus the way some Christians wish Jesus was depicted in the Gospels, but isn’t.

  • velkyn

    In that Christianity relies on lies, fear and hate to keep it in existence (see Prop 8), of course it has no humor.

  • Wedge

    Ebonmuse gives only 2 or 3 quotes to build his case and omits the many, many verses that paint a different picture. For example, the writer of the Ecclesiastes does, at one point, say “sorrow is better than laughter” but the same writer also notes that there is “a time to laugh,” (Eccl. 3:4) and that, “A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work,” (Eccl. 2:24) and that, “I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil — this is the gift of God.” (Eccl. 3:12,13) See also 9:7 “Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for it is now that God favors what you do.” Here we find ample mention in just this chapter of things that bring merriment.

    cl,

    I’m enjoying the debate here. I just wanted to call you on this–’laughter’ and ‘satisfaction in your work’ are emphatically not the same things. You are trying to argue against Adam’s quotes about laughter by widening the field to include all positive feelings, such as joy, satisfaciton, and happiness and claiming that these lead to laughter, and sa that therefore they are positive statements about laughter.

    They are not. No one is claiming that the Bible condemns all positive, happy feelings. The discussion is about laughter, which the Bible always (or almost always?) connects to negative situations and emotions such as scorn and oncoming doom.

    If there are many quotes from the Bible which support a positive view of laughter, please state one or two. Ecclesiastes ‘a time for laughter’ is not a positive endorsement of laughter–after all, there are also times to mourn, to kill, etc.

    The Bible portrays laughter often as a derisatory act. Where in the Bible does it portray laughter as a good thing?

  • Wedge

    Quick notes: sorry about the ‘sa’ typo, ignore it.

    Also, the Bible doesn’t bring up laughter often, so that was the wrong word to use in the final sentence–try ‘consistently’ instead.

  • Brad

    Ebonmuse, I realize you doubt Jesus ever existed. Anticipating this, I clarified my paraphrase of your thesis back in my previous post by referring to Jesus as a “real or fictional character.” Some parts of being human can be assumed to be implied within stories, just as we all assume characters in short stories experience the full range of human experience (beyond mere biological function) even if they don’t explicitly dwell on it. Stories only dwell on that which is their point to take up. The burden of proof is then on us to demonstrate why we should actually expect this lighthearted aspect of human existence to be laced within the Bible’s stories of Jesus. You took up that burden well last comment.

    As for if the depiction of laughter in the Bible – let me give some preliminary research I just did. Via SearchingGodsWord.org I looked up sachaq. The linked page gives varied definitions and lists 36 instances of the word used throughout the Bible. By both counts, it seems there is a mixture of positive and negative connotation to the word. Apparently, “sachaq” can and is used to mean both scorn/mockery and joy/merriment. To what measure the word is used either net positive or negative I do not know at this stage – I will need to look more at other manifestations of the word. But one fact I find strange and sad is that the derrisive form of “laughter” is used at all in the Bible, even if just in equal measure. It’s obvious the Bible is heavily saturated with the Hebrews’ primitive and barbaric notions and norms.

    Now from John:

    As I have said before, The Bible is not to be taken literally.

    Even if the Bible is non-literal, inspection upon the Hebrews’ choice metaphors can still give us negative conclusions about them and the Bible. If the Hebrews use metaphors employing narrowminded notions, notions that we would naturally expect of primitive, pagan nations that have invented (a) god-figure(s), we still have the capacity (with further analysis, to be sure) to infer about their culture, and by extension about whether the Christian God truly was pulling the strings behind it at all.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    First off I apologize to everyone for making such a long comment. I’m only responding in such depth in what I perceive as fairness and courtesy to people who have asked me to further support certain points.

    Ebonmuse,

    ..Christians, much as cl is doing, often assume there’s a whole rich vein of human experience in Jesus’ life that the Bible doesn’t tell us about, but I say that we’re not entitled to make that assumption on the basis of the rather threadbare text that we possess.

    Hey now I don’t think that’s fair. For one, when have you asked me about my religious beliefs? You can “believe” in the Bible and be many other things than a Christian, as Bertrand Russell pointed out. You also already (lightweight) put words in my mouth in your first comment, when you paraphrased my argument as opposed to extracting it from an actual statement. Secondly, I’ve simply challenged your premises, conclusions and exegesis here; I’ve not put forth a committed statement regarding how often Jesus laughed and I’m not necessarily defending Collins’ position either. So your charge above assumes that I factor some hidden “rich vein of human experience in Jesus’ life” into my arguments or beliefs when for the sake of this argument I do not, either in this thread or on my blog; I am simply questioning some of your premises and conclusions, and more importantly the manner in which you appear to have reached them. So please, allow me to make my own arguments.

    Also – I agree that under the context we’re in here, we’re not entitled to make assumptions about Jesus’ life on the basis of threadbare accounts, as you say. What perplexes me is why you take the liberty to do just that in this essay. You’ve mined selectively from threadbare accounts to concoct a two-tier false argument that the Bible “…depicts laughter only as a cruel act, the mocking laughter of the victor’s judgment” and that “Jesus actually condemns” laughter.

    Here you say,

    …I would expect that (the Bible) would capture the full range of human emotional experience, and to show that God, just like us, is capable of experiencing merriment and humor. The fact that it does neither of these things, and in fact depicts laughter only as a cruel act, the mocking laughter of the victor’s judgment…(paren. mine)

    It does the first of these things directly, and we can build a strong case for the second as well. To avoid going into another tangent argument, let me just say that I can bring you verses all along the gamut of human emotion from scripture. You’ve got everything in there: sex, adultery, fools getting drunk, love, hate, jealousy, laughter, sport, fear, rage, lust, sarcasm, (add your own here), etc., etc. What’s more important is to remind you and anyone interested in hearing that these parts of your argument are wrong:

    Jesus actually condemns laughter,

    and

    (The Bible) in fact depicts laughter only as a cruel act, the mocking laughter of the victor’s judgment. (paren. mine)

    See below where Wedge has the same concerns..

    Wedge,

    I just wanted to call you on this –’laughter’ and ‘satisfaction in your work’ are emphatically not the same things. You are trying to argue against Adam’s quotes about laughter by widening the field to include all positive feelings, such as joy, satisfaciton, and happiness and claiming that these lead to laughter, and say that therefore they are positive statements about laughter.

    Well, you’re quite correct, and I conceded that the verses offered from the Ecclesiastes weren’t specifically about laughter. I included them quickly only in response to somebody who asked that I “at least throw out a bone.” I admit they were supplementary bones selected in haste at best, and I’ll build a stronger case regarding this point later in this comment.

    Also, you said,

    No one is claiming that the Bible condemns all positive, happy feelings. The discussion is about laughter, which the Bible always (or almost always?) connects to negative situations and emotions such as scorn and oncoming doom.

    In my defense, nowhere in the thread or on my own blog did I imply Ebonmuse’s argument was that “the Bible condemns all positive, happy feelings.” Ebonmuse did say that Jesus condemns laughter in Luke 6:21-25 and this is incorrect and misleading and I think this is a major error we should expect when proceeding from an argument from silence (slippery slope fallacy). I don’t think it’s good strategy to factor incorrect and misleading interpretations of scripture into an argument. I’m aware the discussion is about laughter, and to postulate that the Bible always (or almost always) connects laughter to negative situations and emotions such as scorn and oncoming doom is so biased and one-sided as to be laughable. Rationalism and objectivity are not a package deal and each virtue must be developed separately, and I was just tripping out because nearly every person in the thread seemed to swallow the argument without question.

    Lastly, you said,

    If there are many quotes from the Bible which support a positive view of laughter, please state one or two.

    Well I don’t know what you mean by ‘support a positive view’ but I can amply support the following with a quick appeal to linguistics:

    1) That the view presented here (Bible shows only or mainly a negative depiction of laughter, mirth, etc.) is one-sided.

    2) That the method of exegesis regarding this issue of scripture and laughter is inadequate (I have already argued that Ebonmuse’s particular charge related to Luke 6:21-25 is grossly exaggerated at best).

    Here’s a quick example of what I mean:

    I realize this piece was intended to rebut Gary Collins, but the manner in which Ebonmuse handles scripture is unacceptable in a real argument. You don’t allow believers to selectively argue science, and rightly so. Similarly, I am arguing that Ebonmuse can’t just select the parts of scripture that support his point and ignore others that directly counter it, especially in the presence of such bold claims.

    Here’s some facts I would expect in a discussion about laughter and scripture, especially in the presence of bold claims such as “Jesus actually condemns laughter” and “the Bible in fact depicts laughter only as a cruel act” -

    There are no less than 30 Greek, Aramic, or Hebrew words that are roughly equivalent to the English ‘laughter’ in the Bible. The Greek gelao occurs 2x in the NT and signifies laughter as a sign of joy or satisfaction, where as katagelao occurs only once and signifies derisive laughter. The (Aramic) la’ag occurs 7x and it also signifies derisive laughter or mockery. The (Hebrew) sachaq occurs 11x, three of which in pertinence to rejoicing; two in reference to sport; and two in the general context of merriment. The (Hebrew) tsachaq bears a similar situation. (I apologize for omitting certain punctuation)

    So, I don’t even have an associates and I can tell you the truth is that in the Bible, we find no less than five different words spanning three different languages and thousands of years, occurring dozens of times in several different contexts including derision, merriment, rejoicing, sport or play, etc.

    Now that’s quite a far cry from,

    Jesus actually condemns laughter,

    and

    (The Bible) in fact depicts laughter only as a cruel act, the mocking laughter of the victor’s judgment. (paren. mine)

    But this is precisely what happens without a balanced approach to exegesis. Here we have confirmation bias (“These 2 or 3 passages suffice to prove my point”) that leads to the slippery slope fallacy (“Jesus actually condemns laughter” and “Bible only depicts laughter negatively”).

    Brad,

    Even if the Bible is non-literal, inspection upon the Hebrews’ choice metaphors can still give us negative conclusions about them and the Bible.

    Certainly. To each their own. But, the Hebrews’ choice metaphors don’t support Ebonmuse’s far-reaching conclusions either, especially the part about Jesus condemning laughter.

    I don’t mean to be some square; just calling things as I see them. I laughed at the jokes in the thread, especially the one where the Pope was walking..

  • Wedge

    cl,

    Your list of word-meanings says nothing and I don’t know why you gave it.

    Words have meaning in context. Your Hebrew sachaq and tsachaq, for instance, may have the meaning of ‘merriment’ in some contexts, but in the Bible these words are used, for example, when Sarah laughs derisively at God’s promises (Gen 18, 13-15), and to express spite and scorn (Ps 52:6, 2Chr32:10). You also left out la’ag which specifically means nothing but to laugh to scorn or mock, which gets used quite a bit too! (Job, Psalms, 2 Kings, Nehemiah, Isaiah).

    The other words you listed are the same; they may have positive meanings as well as negative ones, but they are used negatively in the Bible, which is what we are discussing.

    So, I don’t even have an associates and I can tell you the truth is that in the Bible, we find no less than five different words spanning three different languages and thousands of years, occurring dozens of times in several different contexts including derision, merriment, rejoicing, sport or play, etc.

    This is not the truth. This is you avoiding what the words actually say as they are used in the Bible. In context, these words never mean sport, play, or merriment and when they refer to rejoicing it is most often in the context of slaughtering enemies or victory over those who are not righteous.

    I’ll save you the trouble of coming up with positive uses of laughter in the Bible, since I have mine out: there are two. One is in Luke, 6:21, in which laughter is indicated as a reward for those who weep now. It is followed by the reverse situation, in which those who laugh now will weep later. Not exactly a ringing endorsement of people laughing now.

    The other is Psalms 126:2, where the exiled returned from Babylon are filled with laughter.

    There are 38 other verses using some variation of laughter (KJV). All negative.

    Ebonmuse points out in this article that laughter, a common and wonderful facet of human experience, is either ignored or in the majority of cases given a negative spin in the Bible. It is not just as valid to say that Jesus had a sense of humor and laughed in merriment as it is to say that he was humorless–the God of the Bible and his prophets (whatever category you believe Jesus falls into) show no use for laughter except as a means of displaying scorn, and, in the NT, as an indication of those who are enjoying this life too much and will be sad in the next.

    Now that’s quite a far cry from,

    Jesus actually condemns laughter,

    and

    (The Bible) in fact depicts laughter only as a cruel act, the mocking laughter of the victor’s judgment. (paren. mine)

    But this is precisely what happens without a balanced approach to exegesis. Here we have confirmation bias (“These 2 or 3 passages suffice to prove my point”) that leads to the slippery slope fallacy (“Jesus actually condemns laughter” and “Bible only depicts laughter negatively”).

    Jesus does condemn laughter (in the here and now) and says that those who laugh now will weep later. So maybe he doesn’t condemn all laughter, just laughter during your lifetime? This is part of the Beatitudes, and the context is definitely condemning of those who laugh, are rich, well-fed, and well-spoken of by the world. He is using laughter in this world as a symbol of those who are spiritually bankrupt.

    And the Bible does use laughter as a sign of scorn, mocking, etc. in almost every case (38 out of 40)! So how is the analysis that laughter is portrayed negatively in the Bible wrong?

    I have not taken 2 or 3 passages to show that laughter is portrayed negatively in the Bible. I’ve looked at every time that laughter is mentioned. If you want to, we can go over each one, but taken as a whole I believe they support my contention that the Bible depicts laughter as the accompaniment of scorn, derision, and mocking. There are no jokes in the Bible, no humor, no light-hearted parables, and God displays no sense of humor. If he existed, he might have had one, but there’s good reason to doubt it.

    If you wish to contend that this is not a huge missing piece of Jesus’ personality, and of God’s relationship with man in general as given by the Bible, you will have to do more than vague lists of what words might mean and the implication that my approach is unbalanced. I’m reading what is there. If it’s unbalanced, show me where the evidence to the contrary is located and I will take it into account.

  • Joffan

    What would be interesting would be to find a story in the gospels where it would be natural for Jesus to have laughed, or even smiled. I see one site that argued that some of his parables do have humor – like the punchline about having a plank in your eye, or another about swallowing a camel. Certainly these could have been humorous, although the version in the Bible shows no particular evidence when Jesus piles on afterwards with remarks about hypocrisy. If his listeners were laughing, it would have been nervously.

    I imagine that the image of Jesus joking and laughing doesn’t sit well with many Christians -he’s only godly if he’s all about serious piety. A shame, really; Christianity might be a better religion with a Jesus who told jokes.

  • paradoctor

    It’s just as well that the NT never shows Jesus laughing. If it had, then the Church would, to this day, be telling us which forms of humor are correct and which are not. As is, the whole subject is verboten – no laughter in church – which gives the humorist complete freedom.

    And in the NT’s defence, the story is basically a tragedy.

    And on the third hand… I think some of his stories are hysterical. For instance, that render-unto-Caesar coin? That particular currency was, at the time… debased. Dude had a sharp tongue on him. But I gotta say that Peter/rock pun was a groaner.

  • Wedge

    The Master said, “Give the man alms.”

    The disciple did. The Master said, “You should have touched your hat as a mark of respect.”

    “But the man was blind.”

    “You never know,” said the Master. “He might have been a fraud.”

    :)

  • http://www.answersingenesis.org anon

    Wedge,

    You said,

    Your list of word-meanings says nothing and I don’t know why you gave it.

    Well that’s not very nice. I thought it said quite a bit. Sorry you weren’t as impressed. Either way, it’s clear you didn’t read my comment carefully, so I’m not that concerned about your opinion of it. You also said that I,

    …left out la’ag which specifically means nothing but to laugh to scorn or mock…

    That’s incorrect. In actuality, I addressed it more thoroughly than you, in my last comment when I said,

    The (Aramic) la’ag occurs 7x and it also signifies derisive laughter or mockery.

    I’ll pay the rest of your comment similar attention as you appear to have given mine.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    The above comment posted “anon” is actually from me.

  • RiddleOfSteel

    There are no less than 30 Greek, Aramic, or Hebrew words that are roughly equivalent to the English ‘laughter’ in the Bible.

    I am wondering how these 30 words apply to descriptions of Jesus? In particular, could you provide some passages where Jesus is depicted as engaging in “gelao”, “sachaq” or “tsachaq”? Mainly I am wondering about the sense of humor regarding Jesus – in your view is he depicted with a sense of humor – and if so, is it good or ill humor?

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    RiddleOfSteel,

    I noticed a flaw in my statement you quoted:

    There are no less than 30 Greek, Aramic, or Hebrew words that are roughly equivalent to the English ‘laughter’ in the Bible.

    What I meant was, “no less than 30 instances of 5 Greek, Aramic, or Hebrew words…” Hopefully nobody was confused.

    You ask,

    I am wondering how these 30 words apply to descriptions of Jesus?

    They don’t specifically. There’s a few arguments going here. I’m rebutting the claims that Jesus condemns laughter and that the Bible only gives negative depictions or inferences regarding laughter. Those 5 words and apply to the latter argument. Wedge disagrees.

  • Wedge

    Yes, I disagree and I gave my reasons for doing so. I’m not surprised you don’t want to deal with them.

  • RiddleOfSteel

    They don’t specifically. There’s a few arguments going here. I’m rebutting the claims that Jesus condemns laughter and that the Bible only gives negative depictions or inferences regarding laughter. Those 5 words and apply to the latter argument. Wedge disagrees.

    No problem. Since humor, laughter and Jesus were in the mix of discussion, I was just wondering about the relationship in the depiction of Jesus. If Jesus could be shown to have a good sense of humor, it could support a claim that the Bible advances humor, given that a key character acted accordingly. But is seems that is not the case.

    Anyway, I think these people claiming that Jesus condemns laughter are way off base. I have the proof right here;)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1SgByE0pX1M&feature=related

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    Wedge,

    I’m not surprised you don’t want to deal with them.

    I’m not afraid of your arguments; it’s just counterproductive to debate if you’re falsely accusing me on account of your own inability to read my comment carefully.

  • Wedge

    cl,

    This isn’t going anywhere. That’s unfortunate because it’s an interesting topic. My first statement, which offended you, was simply a statement of fact–listing the words and definitions didn’t advance the argument any, and I don’t understand why you brought it into the discussion. I still don’t see why you think that because the various words for laughter could mean merriment or humor, that has any application to the context in the Bible where they obviously don’t.

    Yes, I forgot that you had mentioned that word by the time I wrote that you hadn’t. I was wrong. It’s incidental, and it wasn’t an accusation of anything, much less a false one, just a mistake on my part. I’d apologize for offending you, but I don’t know what you’re offended at–the fact that after looking everything up I forgot you had listed that word, and didn’t go back to check? How is that an insult to you? I really don’t get it.

    Change it to ‘la’ag, which you included in your list, gets used a lot too.’ It doesn’t change my argument at all, and it gives you credit for including the word.

    Frankly, I see what you’re doing as grasping at any excuse to be too offended to deal with the arguments. I haven’t said anything that is rude or accusatory, merely tried to deal with the argument you brought up and bolster my own. It’s frustrating to put time and effort into research and then have someone say, ‘oh, I think you’re rude because you made a minor mistake, forget it.’

    If you have responses to the points I brought up, I am quite honestly interested in hearing them. This is a neat subject and I would be delighted to find that you have some valid counterpoints.

  • Brad

    The above comment posted “anon” is actually from me.

    So that was you who sock-puppet-satirized Sye? Or am I confusing the horse and carriage here? :)

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    Wedge,

    I’d apologize for offending you, but I don’t know what you’re offended at… It’s frustrating to put time and effort into research and then have someone say, ‘oh, I think you’re rude because you made a minor mistake, forget it.’

    I’m not offended and I never said or implied such.

    Frankly, I see what you’re doing as grasping at any excuse to be too offended to deal with the arguments. I haven’t said anything that is rude or accusatory.

    Grasping? Well that’s humbling. What arguments? All you did was echo Ebonmuse (Jesus did condemn laughter) and I’ve already dealt with that claim. It’s false in the original context we mentioned it (which was Luke 6:21-25 BTW, and not the Beatitudes). I don’t even buy the argument Jesus condemns laughter in the Beatitudes, either.

    Another thing you did was offer some arbitrary nonsense ratio of 38 to 40 or something, in favor of negative vs. positive depictions of laughter in the Bible. Then you said,

    I’ll save you the trouble of coming up with positive uses of laughter in the Bible, since I have mine out: there are two.

    along with the claim that you,

    …looked at every time that laughter is mentioned.

    Really? Then did you overlook, for example, Ecclesiastes 10:19, which reads, “A feast is made for laughter, and wine makes life merry?” (Hebrew schowq, SIC) Did you overlook Sarah’s laughter of rejoicing and merriment (Hebrew tsachaq, SIC) in Genesis 21:6 at her discovery of the fact she was with child?

    So that quick we can see there are clearly more than two “positive references” and your statements are inaccurate. BTW, the fact that we are even doing this kinda supports my case that there is not enough evidence in scripture, nor is there a well-built-enough argument in the OP, to imply the Bible “…in fact depicts laughter only as a cruel act,” or that “Jesus condemns laughter.”

  • HL

    @ Joffan:

    What would be interesting would be to find a story in the gospels where it would be natural for Jesus to have laughed, or even smiled. I see one site that argued that some of his parables do have humor – like the punchline about having a plank in your eye, or another about swallowing a camel.

    A case could be made that Jesus shows the occasional sign of dry humor. Take John 4:16-18. “Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” The obvious gloss here is “oh snap!”

    But offhand I don’t recall any other instances of possible wit except Matt.11:18-19 and Mark 6:4 (“A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household”). Both of which are bitter sarcasm. While I’m neither a Bible scholar nor an expert on Ancient Hebrew culture, Jesus strikes me as too intense to lighten up much if at all.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    Thanks for your comments, Wedge – they’re well-reasoned and articulate and certainly saved me the trouble of crafting a lengthy reply of my own. :)

    cl:

    You also already (lightweight) put words in my mouth in your first comment, when you paraphrased my argument as opposed to extracting it from an actual statement.

    If you really think that, let’s compare. Here’s how I characterized your argument:

    “You say that, even though the New Testament never depicts Jesus as laughing, he might have laughed on some occasion that’s not recorded in the text and therefore I can’t be justified in drawing the conclusions I did.”

    And here’s what you said in your longer response to this piece on your own site:

    “Either way, does omission of a phenomenon warrant the argument that the phenomenon never occurred, especially when the phenomenon posited is a plainly natural and human quality that would most likely would have occurred?”

    I think that mine is a wholly accurate characterization of the claim that you did in fact make. And, I take pains to note, your argument does just what I anticipated: “Christians… often assume there’s a whole rich vein of human experience in Jesus’ life that the Bible doesn’t tell us about, but I say that we’re not entitled to make that assumption on the basis of the rather threadbare text that we possess. It’s always been part of the appeal of the Jesus character that people can read their own best instincts and desires into him.” That is precisely what you’re doing by supplementing my characterization of how the Bible depicts Jesus with extra, hypothetical material that you believe presents a better picture of his character.

    I don’t even buy the argument Jesus condemns laughter in the Beatitudes, either.

    If only I had your sophisticated theological understanding, cl. Clearly, only a rank amateur could read a passage like this:

    Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep.

    …and conclude that it was condemning laughter. Perish the thought.

  • http://elliptica.blogspot.com Lynet

    Well, I guess my agreement with this post depends on what its thesis is supposed to be. Count me among those who don’t see why any Christian should be forced to conclude on the basis of the gospels that all laughter is wrong. It’s easy enough to read “Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep” as yet another instance of the Bible predicting that those who were happy will become unhappy even as those who are unhappy rise once more, rather than as a description of the punishment for laughing.

    On the other hand, if you simply wanted to argue that trying to psychoanalyse Jesus on the basis of the gospels might lead you to conclude that, actually, Jesus was not the epitome of mental health, then you’ve made a decent case. I think the trouble with trying to link that to problems in the fundamentalist mindset is that it’s unclear how broad your net is supposed to be. After all, the first site you link to goes on to give Biblical support for the idea that human laughter can still be a good thing.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    Ebonmuse,

    If only I had your sophisticated theological understanding, cl. Clearly, only a rank amateur could read a passage like this…

    There’s no need to posit arrogance on my behalf and nothing positive will probably come of it. I don’t think the Beatitudes or Luke 6:21-25 can be accurately described as condemnatory of laughter. Big deal. The verse you cite (Luke 6:25) is but one in a passage whose context extends from verses 17-26. You apparently make no concerns about context, and no distinction between “you that laugh” (Jesus was speaking to a group of people in a particular place and time, and of a particular type of person metaphorically), and laughter as a whole (see Lynet’s comment above to this end). Jesus is not condemning people for laughing nor is Jesus condemning laughter in Luke 6:25. When you read those verses in context, it is clear that Jesus is giving some veiled allusions about how to discern authentic and false prophets. I’ve not implied I had some “sophisticated theological understanding” that you don’t, and your insinuation won’t lend itself well to any sort of synthesis. I’ve been responding at length because some people here have said they were benefiting from my concerns. If you are not, that’s okay. I’ve never insinuated you were a rank amateur and quite honestly I find much of your writing compelling, so please don’t make caricature of mine.

    I’m not so sure how often Jesus laughed and of course there is a real possibility that Jesus may not have laughed much or even at all, especially once the ministry got going. And I understand your point about people who infer all these majestic qualities and extraneous good works to Jesus. But here’s the thing – any time we have an account of a character, there is a rich vein of human experience we don’t get the privilege of seeing. In A Bronx Tale, for example, we don’t see much actual footage of Colagero in school, but nonetheless there is a rich vein of experience there. To concoct arguments from this veiled vein of experience is speculative, however, and that’s what I maintain has occurred in this post. Your argument from silence doesn’t support your conclusions. Whether Jesus laughed or not need not be the case as you yourself noted earlier, because whether Jesus laughed or not, I’ve demonstrated that the following claims of yours are false:

    (The Bible) in fact depicts laughter only as a cruel act…(paren. mine)

    and

    Jesus condemns laughter (in context of Luke 6:21-25)

    Ecclesiastes 10:19 and Genesis 21:6 (along with the two Wedge offers and others I still haven’t even got to) disproves the former statement, and reading Luke 6:17-26 in context disproves the latter. I met Wedge’s comment head on with responses that were equally well-reasoned. And on top of that, you still haven’t demonstrated why your inferences from a “threadbare” account should be taken with greater weight than mine.

    Look, I don’t mean to be the next loudmouth theist flappin’ his jaw like a paper bag in the wind, and I’m feeling a slight intuition that I’m getting on some nerves. I’m stubborn, I know… I’ve stuck to the same claims since my original comment and I’ve met requirements to demonstrate passages where any of the various Greek or Hebrew words I mentioned are used in a positive connotation.

    So, as I said before, the truth is that in the Bible, we find no less than five six different words spanning three different languages and thousands of years, occurring dozens of times in several different contexts including derision, merriment, rejoicing, etc. It is up to somebody here to demonstrate otherwise.

  • Crankgst

    I refer all to this link: http://www.freeratio.org/vbb/showthread.php?t=135497&page=1

    There are 50 pages therein of a christian getting his argument’s arse handed to him while he shifts goal posts, and ignores anything that provides a valid counter-argument. He also begs the question, and tries his hand at inductive proof. These people, they may seem like they can be convinced, because of the way they imitate us in discussion. Unfortunately, they are not humble enough to know defeat.

    It’s funny, really – that atheists should be more humble than christians. But also, upsetting, because it means that these people can not be reasoned with. You all already know that though, you know that where the weed of religion is grown, no fruit may come forth, until the greedy, choking, noxious weed is removed.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    I don’t think the Beatitudes or Luke 6:21-25 can be accurately described as condemnatory of laughter… When you read those verses in context, it is clear that Jesus is giving some veiled allusions about how to discern authentic and false prophets.

    cl, you’re free to interpret this verse however you like. But your claim that this is the only accurate way to interpret it just won’t fly, particularly when so many Christians have read the Bible and noticed the same things I did.

    Here are some more of them:

    You look your Bible through and you never see one verse even hinting at such a thing as ‘Holy Laughter’ and anyone citing verses on ‘joy’ to back this ‘holy laughter’ are reading something into the text that is simply not there. We don’t see Jesus or the apostles ever doing anything even remotely resembling ‘holy laughter’ nor do we see anything like it in church history by great men and women of God! (source)

    As early as the 4th century, church leader John Chrysostom declared that Jesus never laughed… The Council of Constance in the 1400s consigned to hell any minister or monk who spoke “jocular words such as to provoke laughter.” (source)

    The kind of psychological tension that produces laughter; the vanity that produces laughter; the fear of man that produces laughter; these things don’t exist in a man fully developed and in full command of his inner being… Basically, Jesus didn’t laugh because Jesus didn’t need to laugh. (source)

    Gospel-mourning for sin is perpetual. There are some who at a sermon will shed a few tears—but they are soon dried up. The hypocrite’s sorrow is like a vein opened and presently stopped. The Hebrew word for ‘eye’ signifies also ‘a fountain’, to show that the eye must run like a fountain for sin and not cease; but it must not be like the Libyan fountain which the ancients speak of—in the morning the water is hot, at midday cold. The waters of repentance must not overflow with more heat in the morning, at the first hearing of the gospel; and at midday, in the midst of health and prosperity, grow cold and be ready to freeze. No! it must be a daily weeping. As Paul said, ‘I die daily’ (1 Corinthians 15:31), so a Christian should say, ‘I mourn daily’. Therefore keep open an outflow of godly sorrow, and be sure it is not stopped until death. (source)

  • Wedge

    Ebonmuse,

    Thank you. Praise from you is praise indeed.*grin*

    cl,

    What arguments?

    1. That the Bible does not have much if any humor in it, especially lacking in examples of ‘holy’ laughter. This may not show that the Bible does not think God has a sense of humor, but it does not show that he does; humor is not brought into the scriptures which are considered God’s message to mankind. At the very least, humor is not an important component of that ‘relationship.’

    2. That laughter is largely portrayed as scornful, derisive, and the accompaniment of defeating and degrading enemies, or as the accompaniment of pride. It may not be entirely condemning of laughter–it says very little about it overall–but what it does say is not positive.

    It’s false in the original context we mentioned it (which was Luke 6:21-25 BTW, and not the Beatitudes).

    That’s a rephrase of the Beatitudes, and the point remains the same. If there’s a relevant difference, please point it out.

    Another thing you did was offer some arbitrary nonsense ratio of 38 to 40 or something, in favor of negative vs. positive depictions of laughter in the Bible.

    Well, yes. I quantified the ‘largely negative’ view of laughter in the Bible. If most of the time, laughter is negatively portrayed (as in, 38 out of 40 times) that is evidence that laughter is overall regarded negatively in the Bible. If you think it is not evidence, tell me why not.

    Really? Then did you overlook, for example, Ecclesiastes 10:19, which reads, “A feast is made for laughter, and wine makes life merry?”

    Nope. I read it in context. It is part of a long chapter of warnings. Verse 17 says that “Blessed are you…whose princes eat at a proper time–for strength and not for drunkenness.” Verse 18 warns against idleness, which makes the house leak and the rafters sag, and verse 19 says “A feast is made for laughter, and wine makes life merry, but money is the answer for everything.”

    So, those who laugh–the lazy and idle–can get away with it if they have enough money. I don’t see that as a positive view of laughter.

    Did you overlook Sarah’s laughter of rejoicing and merriment (Hebrew tsachaq, SIC) in Genesis 21:6 at her discovery of the fact she was with child?

    This one did make me pause, but I considered the context: earlier, Sarah was laughing scornfully at God’s promise to give her a son in her old age, and then frightened, denying it (Genesis 18). The birth of Isaac in Genesis 21 is the promise which Sarah laughed at fulfilled, which puts an ironic or rueful twist on Sarah’s declaration that God has brought her laughter and will make everyone laugh with her. It isn’t bad laughter, but Sarah was admitting she was wrong and glad to be wrong, that she shouldn’t have laughed in the first place.

    Maybe neutral rather than negative? It’s your best counterpoint yet.

    Still, even if her laughter is expressing joy in her son it’s still a ‘gotcha’ moment. It doesn’t leave me with the impression that God approves of laughter in people.

    BTW, the fact that we are even doing this kinda supports my case that there is not enough evidence in scripture, nor is there a well-built-enough argument in the OP, to imply the Bible “…in fact depicts laughter only as a cruel act,” or that “Jesus condemns laughter.”

    I agree, there really isn’t. However, there isn’t any evidence of a humorous, laughing God. What little evidence there is points to Ebonmuse’s conclusions which are shared by a number of Christians.

    That, to me, is what is important: I couldn’t care less what the Bible says but I care about what Christians do. Understanding where those convictions and attitudes come from is important.

    So the upshot is not to prove that the Bible is humorless, but to show that this perception of the Bible is out there and that it’s based on what the Bible says. (Making this debate kind of sideways, but what the hell, it’s fun.) I think Christianity over the years has been remarkably stern and humorous, and that the Bible may be the source of that.

    And given that there’s very little evidence about many things in the Bible (such as free will, Trinitarianism, homosexuality, etc.) and people still feel able to come to firm conclusions about them, this is still an angle of Christian religion worth considering. There are more verses about laughter than there are about Jesus’ status as God.

    (One of the reasons that I’m much fonder of Eastern philosophy than Western, despite the drawbacks, is the rich humor.)

  • Maynard

    If I lived in the desert, as those who wrote the bible, and had sand in my ass crack 24/7, you wouldn’t find me laughing much either!

    St. Peter has to take a break and sees Jesus near by. St. Peter asks Jesus to watch the Pearly Gates for an hour while he’s away. Jesus is reluctant having never had this responsibility before. St. Peter assures him that all he has to do is find the name of any one who approaches in the big book and determine if they are worthy of entrance. “Besides,” St. Peter says, “I doubt anyone will even show up while I’m gone.”

    About 45 minutes into it, no one has arrived, but then Jesus spots an old man approaching. As the man nears Jesus greets him.
    “What is your name old man?”
    “I can’t remember.”
    “Well, I have to find you in the book. Where are you from?”
    “I can’t remember.”
    “You’re not making this easy. Is there anything you can tell me about your life?”
    “Well, I was a carpenter, and I had a son who was instantly recognized and loved by the whole world.”
    A tear forms in Jesus’ eye as he steps toward the old man and says, “Father?”
    The old man looks up at Jesus with wonderment and responds, “Pinocchio?”

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    Ebonmuse / Wedge / Brad / whoever -

    This whole thing is wandering off course. Here’s my summary of facts from the top and I apologize at the lack of brevity. Please label complaints / rebuttals according to the appropriate number, or feel free to add a new complaint if anyone feels I’ve missed anything.

    1) Clarifying my claims: From my first comment November 10, 2008, 5:13 pm, I have implied that Ebonmuse proposes a fallacious argument from silence, and that confirmation bias and the slippery slope fallacy have come into play. I also claimed that of a meager 3 passages Ebonmuse included to support his point, he misinterpreted one of them (Luke 6:21-25). These four claims of mine have not wavered and I have not moved any goalposts.

    2) Clarifying Ebonmuse’s claims: Ebonmuse proposed a two-tier argument about Christianity based on his extrapolation of the New Testament’s bona fide lack of imagery depicting Jesus in laughter. That two-tier argument, as originally phrased in Ebonmuse’s own words, was that in Luke 6:21-25 Jesus condemns laughter;

    …he condemns those who do…(ital. orig.)

    and that the Bible,

    …in fact depicts laughter only as a cruel act, the mocking laughter of the victor’s judgment.

    3) Preliminary objections: Initial dialog regarding my dissent was with heliobates, who, in response to me saying that I,

    …still object to the selective de-emphasis of passages that don’t seem to fit squarely with the desired conclusions, which do not logically entail the given premises, which themselves are open to valid criticism. (cl, November 10, 2008, 11:32 pm)

    said,

    So what supports Gary Collins’ position then? What passages is (Ebonmuse) “selectively de-emphasizing”? (heliobates, paren. mine, November 10, 2008, 11:42 pm)

    At this point I maintained I had no obligation to support Collins’ position, and regarding heliobates’ request for scriptures, I was unable to provide them at the time and so simply answered generically,

    Every passage in scripture that mentions mirth or laughter in a positive light. (cl, November 10, 2008, 11:55 pm)

    I decided that when time availed, I would supply a scripture or two that I felt supported my point. November 11, 2008, 2:24 am, I offered Ecclesiastes 2:24, 3:4, 3:12-13, and 9:7.

    4) Further Objections: Enter Wedge, who for some reason calls me out on a point I previously conceded:

    …’laughter’ and ‘satisfaction in your work’ are emphatically not the same things. You are trying to argue against Adam’s quotes about laughter by widening the field to include all positive feelings, such as joy, satisfaciton, and happiness and claiming that these lead to laughter… If there are many quotes from the Bible which support a positive view of laughter, please state one or two. Ecclesiastes ‘a time for laughter’ is not a positive endorsement of laughter–after all, there are also times to mourn, to kill, etc.

    A few things to say to this:

    4A) I can see how somebody could read this comment and accuse me of goalpost moving, but there is good reason to include those verses. One “Christian source” Ebonmuse cited in the OP also argued against joy, mirth, etc., and Brad also mentioned “mirth” specifically in one of his requests (November 11, 2008, 2:03 am). My responses reflected these facts. Tangentially, the issue itself is relevant and IMO you’ve completely overlooked the presence of “cheer” in scripture, and particularly Proverbs’ and Ecclesiastes’ many admonitions towards a cheerful demeanor (of course, there are also verses that speak well of sorrow, as you note).

    4B) Speaking of widening the field… Remember now, per 2) I have alleged that Ebonmuse’s claim the Bible “…depicts laughter only as a cruel act” is false. Therefore, I don’t need a “positive reference” of laughter to make my case, and it’s actually Wedge who moves the goalpost here; I simply need non-cruel, non-negative, neutral or normal references. This also undermines Wedge’s eschewing of Ecclesiastes 3:4 – please note that “a time for laughter” does not depict laughter in a negative manner or “only as a cruel act.”

    Later (November 11, 2008, 6:57 pm) Wedge makes a few truth-claims of his own that we should take note of:

    [T]here are two… positive uses of laughter in the Bible… There are 38 other verses using some variation of laughter (KJV). All negative.

    It’s left unclear what actually constitutes a “positive use of laughter” so there’s no point in debating whether more than two exist in scripture. However, Wedge’s claim that all verses mentioning laughter aside from Luke 6:21-25 and Psalms 126:2 are “all negative” is certainly inaccurate. The use of laughter in Ecclesiastes 3:4 and 10:19 do not depict laughter negatively, nor does Genesis 21:6, which Wedge at least admitted as ‘neutral’ (which still undermines his argument as phrased) but ultimately downplayed the verse’s ‘positivity’ by alleging it contained,

    …an ironic or rueful twist on Sarah’s declaration that God has brought her laughter and will make everyone laugh with her…

    Even if correct, this fact would exist complementary to Sarah’s positive laughter in the matter. Your argument seeks to eliminate all ‘positive’ aspects from the account when there is certainly no grounds for doing so, but the fact that Sarah laughed in doubt at the idea of getting pregnant at such an advanced age wouldn’t preclude the natural, motherly exuberance we might expect from a human. I use “might” because this, too, is an assumption. Sarah could well have hated the fact she was with child at such an age.

    To cast negativity on Genesis 21:6, I believe Wedge needs to either argue Sarah was unsatisfied with her pregnancy, clarify his argument, or clarify his goalposts before we can continue down this line of debate.

    5) In Response To Ebonmuse: Regarding my charge that Luke 6:21-25 does not support his claim that Jesus condems laughter, Ebonmuse said November 12, 2008, 9:49 am,

    …you’re free to interpret this verse however you like. But your claim that this is the only accurate way to interpret it just won’t fly, particularly when so many Christians have read the Bible and noticed the same things I did.

    Notice Ebonmuse gives no evidence or rebuttal here, just a redirection to a bunch of hotwater Christians, and I’ll deal with their arguments shortly. “…just won’t fly?” Why not? That’s no argument! Ground my airplane; don’t simply curse its wings.

    Notice that punctuated equilibria is not the only interpretation of macroevolution, either, but how many educated folk remain gradualists?

    So we see that the interpretation which best fits the available evidence is, per Occam, most likely to be the correct interpretation. Please note that if Ebonmuse’s interpretation of Luke 6:17-26 is correct, then Jesus is also condemning wealth (v.24), being well-fed (v.25), and the situation of receiving compliments (v.26). That Jesus gives the inverse speech also undermines the argument that laughter, being well-fed, and receiving compliments are the objects of condemnation. The more likely option, which happens to be corroborated twice in the passages, is that Jesus was giving allusion to the fruit of authentic and false prophets.

    Ebonmuse is correct in noting that my interpretation of scripture is not the only interpretation, and I feel that’s a common mistake the believer makes. Ebonmuse is free to interpret scripture however he wishes; However, I’ve attempted to justify my interpretation whereas Ebonmuse has yet to do so, and if convincing reasonable believers is the goal, then such justification must be provided.

    6) Arguments From Authority: Now, as for Ebonmuse’s “Christian sources” – for one, I don’t know who wrote this crap and that you guys think I should be persuaded just because the crap is “Christian” is hilarious. Anyone on the internet can post a bunch of ramblings and call them “Christian,” so expecting me to accept this argument from authority is just absurd. To this effect, Brad correctly noted November 11, 2008, 2:03 am that,

    I also don’t think cl will be swayed by the fact you corroborated your observations of the Bible with other Christians’ similar observations.

    And he’s correct. Besides, if the so-called ‘rationalist’ feels no compulsion to accept arguments from authority, why should I be held to a different standard? At any rate, let me address Ebonmuse’s arguments from authority:

    The first source is a non-sequitur entirely; I’m not sure if everyone here understands the phenomenon of “Holy Laughter,” which more than one person has mentioned here and that Ebonmuse’s first source speaks of. When believers discuss “Holy laughter,” they are not referring to the “intrinsic part of human nature, a healthy way of expressing merriment and joy, and an appropriate response to the ironies and absurdities that are inherent in the world,” nor are they referring to “simple, spontaneous laughter, the kind that every normal person has in their life.” As such, “Holy Laughter” should not factor into this discussion at all; it might belong in the discussion about wackaloon, Benny Hinn-type BS. That’s what the writer of the first article is discussing; an alleged “gift-of-the-spirit” type phenomenon. Totally different argument and entirely irrelevant to our conversation. Totally undermines all comments referencing “Holy laughter” as well.

    The second source – And John Chrysostom is supposed to convince me how? Church leaders also kick skateboarders out of empty parking lots and tell them to “go to hell” and that they “hope we get run over.” In line with the attitude of Dawkins, Jesus had little to zero inherent respect for church authorities. Also remember that whether Jesus ever actually laughed isn’t our point of contention, so this, too, is impertinent. My case remains whether Jesus laughed often or little.

    Your third source I don’t find much immediate fault with, but unfortunately the statement you offer does not support your case at all. The statement offered does not support a negative depiction of laughter or the charge that Jesus condemns laughter.

    Your fourth source is entirely in the context of mourning and sin. It is an argument by some faithful writer admonishing believers not to be lukewarm in their attitude towards repentance. The statement you offer, and all that I’ve read in the original, do not support a negative depiction of laughter.

    This is your case, Ebonmuse; you defend it. I don’t care what Billy Graham, Oral Roberts or Benny Hinn thinks.

    7) Where We All Agree: Now, here’s what I’ll give everyone here. As Ebonmuse says, “Jesus The Literary Character Never Laughed” and you all appear quite correct in noting that God is not laughing like the Laughing Buddha throughout scripture. I freely admit there are no scriptures where Jesus is laughing, or recorded as telling a joke. There are some lightweight instances of dry wit, which is a form of humor. As Brad said in an earlier comment, we are of course free to draw negative conclusions from scripture.

    As usual, Ebonmuse has valid points, for example,

    (The Bible) never depicts God as laughing along with his creation…

    and

    At most, you could say that the Bible’s picture of Jesus’ humanity is incomplete; a piece is missing, and we don’t know whether that absence is unintentional or deliberate.

    The first part of this is accurate; there are no scriptures I know of where God is “laughing along” with us, but this does not support the charge that the Bible “depicts laughter only as a cruel act” or that “Jesus condemns laughter” as Ebonmuse claims – this is a version of a slippery slope argument. Ebonmuse started with a small potentiality and exagerrated whatever reasonable inference may or may not have existed, and incredible, polarized claims were the result.

    Ebonmuse himself said,

    Sure, maybe Jesus was a real cut-up when he was with the apostles, but you’re not entitled to simply assume that,

    to which I still reply: Then why is Ebonmuse entitled to not only assume the opposite but make bold conclusions from that assumption? Brad backed me up on this in comment November 11, 2008, 2:03 am, and heliobates backed me up a bit on this in comment November 11, 2008, 12:56 am. Although I’ve never posited that Jesus was a humorous guy, I don’t need to because the real question is why Ebonmuse is allowed to simply assume from what he called “threadbare” accounts that Jesus never laughed, that God never laughed, and that these things justify his claims as expressed in 2).

    8) Lastly: This is a minor point, but important enough I think it deserves mention: I’m concerned with the way Ebonmuse tars Gary Collins with the religious epithet of “demon-believer.” Now I don’t know who Gary Collins is, nor have I ever heard of the man, nor do I expect any atheist to respect his beliefs, but the tone is undisguisably derogative and the usage suggests that anyone who would believe demons could exist is some sort of fundamentalist wackaloon (although I freely admit many who believe such do fit the bill and this stereotype is not without grounding in truth).

    If one of said fundamentalist wackaloons were to tar an atheist, medium or spiritualist with the epithet of “demon-believer” I feel confident in opining many of us would be concerned, possibly even disgusted – and rightly so.

  • Polly

    Holy shit(which comes from holy cows)! THIS thread’s almost up to 100 posts?
    Geez. And now I’ve helped it along.

    It’s funny I used to refer to this one televangelist as “that laughing cow.” He made regular appearances on TBN. His whole deal was about “holy laughter.” It was like an alternative marking of being “baptized in the Spirit.” The audience would laugh and laugh and laugh. I thought it was insane. I just looked it up to remember his name: Rodney Howard Browne.

    Here’s an interesting quote from the Xian source linked above


    Laughter used in a biblical sense usually describe scorners (Ps. 59:8; Pr. 1:26; Matt. 9:24, etc.).


    Now THAT’S funny.

  • Tom

    [b]to which I still reply: Then why is Ebonmuse entitled to not only assume the opposite but make bold conclusions from that assumption? Brad backed me up on this in comment November 11, 2008, 2:03 am, and heliobates backed me up a bit on this in comment November 11, 2008, 12:56 am. Although I’ve never posited that Jesus was a humorous guy, I don’t need to because the real question is why Ebonmuse is allowed to simply assume from what he called “threadbare” accounts that Jesus never laughed, that God never laughed, and that these things justify his claims as expressed in 2).[/b]

    Because when you’re writing an account of someone’s actions, you don’t exhaustively list all the things they don’t do and so, when reading any such account, you assume actions not explicitly described did not occur. It’s rather similar to the assumption of falsehood of all positive assertions in the absence of positive evidence due to the impossibility of proving a negative, the foundation of rational thought. You might argue that the authors never expressed humour or wrote about mirth or laughter, even if it did occur, because it simply wasn’t important to them – to which I say, do you really want to read a book of moral guidance written by such people?

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    Hi Tom, welcome to the fray. You said,

    Because when you’re writing an account of someone’s actions, you don’t exhaustively list all the things they don’t do and so, when reading any such account, you assume actions not explicitly described did not occur.

    So do you think Jesus ever pooped? “Pooping is not volitional,” you might be prompted to evade as have others. If that’s the case, exchange “pooped” with the non-volitional activity of choice and rephrase the question: Did Jesus ever run? Did Jesus ever stretch? Did Jesus ever jump upwards to pluck fruit off a tree that was competent enough to bear it? I’m not claiming absolute certainty, but I’m at least 99% certain there are no accounts in scripture of Jesus running, stretching or jumping. As with laughing, none of these activities are non-volitional. Citing their absence in scripture would not justify arguments that Jesus neither ran, stretched, or jumped up to pick fruit. This corroborates my claim as expressed that we should never take the liberty to argue bold claims from admittedly ‘threadbare’ accounts.

    This other note to consider is tangential but entirely empirical and relevant to the amount of laughter we might expect in scripture. The type and amount of laughter we experience today and would term ‘normal’ decreases as we go back in time. Laughter is afforded by comfort and a considerable degree of evolutionary stasis; back then fools were on a constant grind to maintain state and make sure their families were safe and their sheep weren’t getting plundered. We’ve grown accustomed to busting our guts at every increasingly-hilarious YouTube link in our inbox, but let’s not forget the extent that the type of culture which is most conducive to laughter is a privilege afforded by wealth and national stability that few, if any of the Bible writers enjoyed. Back then there were way less people, absolutely zero internet or television programs, threats of war from many sides and a whole lot of other crap. We’ve heard more jokes here in one thread than some folks of antiquity heard their whole lives. Hell, circulating these dozen or so jokes here to everyone on this thread via carrier probably would take all of our lifetimes. Point is, we have legit concerns and issues today, don’t get me wrong, but I think it’s reasonable to expect decreasingly less laughter and humor as we peer back at man’s history, civic and sociological development.

    More importantly, none of this matters either way in the context of my specific arguments, because the truth or falsehood of Ebonmuse’s two-tier claim that the Bible “…in fact depicts laughter only as a cruel act” and that “Jesus condemns laughter” are separate (but relevant) arguments than the argument over the extent to which Jesus laughed.

    Your second concern is valid but sorta takes the discussion in a different way:

    You might argue that the authors never expressed humour or wrote about mirth or laughter, even if it did occur, because it simply wasn’t important to them – to which I say, do you really want to read a book of moral guidance written by such people?

    Well, I’m not arguing that. I’m arguing there is sufficient humor, mirth, and laughter in scripture to balance Ebonmuse’s imbalanced claim the Bible “…in fact depicts laughter only as a cruel act, the mocking laughter of the victor’s judgment.”

    So when you ask if I would want to read a book of moral guidance from “such people,” it’s kind of a loaded question, because you are projecting your conclusion about the authors of the Bible onto me. I don’t accept that conclusion, and I don’t think one can fairly label “the authors” of the Bible (as you refer generically to a group of over dozens of people) in a negative context that is not warranted by ‘threadbare’ accounts from 2 or 3 passages. There are over 40 authors believed responsible for the 66 various books in the Bible, and I see no reason to personify a message of negativity unto each of them, especially on account of the words of only two.

  • lpetrich

    cl’s arguments remind me of “it became necessary to destroy the town to save it” from the Vietnam War. His attempts to prove that Jesus Christ had a sense of humor have involved him arguing that the Bible presents an extremely misleading picture of his personality.

    Back to our main subject, Plato argued that the stories of his society’s religion ought to be banned from his Republic, because they include numerous bad examples, like gods laughing:

    Inextinguishable laughter arose among the blessed gods, when they saw Hephaestus bustling about the mansion. (Benjamin Jowett’s translation of Iliad, I, 599 in Republic, III)

    It didn’t bother Plato that it might be cruel to laugh at the attempts to walk of someone who cannot walk very well; what bothered Plato was that laughter was somehow undignified, like some unconscious reflex.

  • Brad

    Just to reiterate my previous point: Stories only dwell on that which is their point to take up. We cannot go make frivolous inferences about a text, even if it is fiction. Can we assume that Jesus Never Laughed? I don’t think so, but maybe there’s something of value in the fact that Jesus was never portrayed as laughing, and that can say something I think. Problem is: what, and why?

    Note to Ebonmuse: Maybe I am misinterpreting “Jesus Never Laughed” – do you mean that Jesus, explicitly within the text of the Bible, never laughed? That’s an easily agreeable description of the explicit Bible plot, but not in the whole Bible “universe” implicitly assumed beyond the text. Perhaps that’s where the source of contention has come from.

  • Brad

    Ipetrich, where did cl “attempt to prove that Jesus Christ had a sense of humor” or argue that “the Bible presents and extremely misleading picture of his personality”? cl is more criticizing our arguments than making any of his own. In fact, I think you’ll find in cl’s comments a concession that Jesus was never depicted laughing.

  • Tom

    cl, the authors of the gospels would have no conceivable reason to record instances of Jesus pooping, running or jumping. They indicate nothing of his character and are, as Brad remarked, irrelevant to the purposes of the account. But when you’re portraying a man who’s supposed to be the saviour of humanity and, moreover, an excellent orator and moraliser fond of telling parables, it’d be entirely appropriate to indicate instances of his laughing or otherwise displaying wit, mirth or amusement during such human interaction, and indeed be an important indicator of his character – and they don’t do that.

  • Tom

    Oh, and to turn your own argument against you, cl – how do you know people rarely laughed in biblical times, compared to today? Because there are no accounts of them in historical texts? Laughter is, as you have implied, a non-volitional action, which means it is most likely an evolved reflex, and in order to be universally present in the human species, as it is today, it must have arisen a hell of a lot more than two millennia ago.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    Tom,

    Your first comment completely ignores the fact that my challenges to Ebonmuse’s arguments do not hinge on whether Jesus actually laughed or not. At any rate, I’ll still take a stab at this:

    …the authors of the gospels would have no conceivable reason to record instances of Jesus pooping, running or jumping.

    Whether they would have considerable reason or not is at once subjective, presumptive and irrelevant. Further note that by your logic as stated in your original comment, one would be justified in assuming Jesus never pooped, stretched, or jumped, simply because these things were not “explicitly described:”

    …when you’re writing an account of someone’s actions, you don’t exhaustively list all the things they don’t do and so, when reading any such account, you assume actions not explicitly described did not occur.

    That was your original argument, and no offense but it’s extremely unconvincing – and again, says nothing of the challenges I’ve posed to Ebonmuse’s claims.

    As for your second comment, I like this:

    Oh, and to turn your own argument against you, cl – how do you know people rarely laughed in biblical times, compared to today? Because there are no accounts of them in historical texts? Laughter is, as you have implied, a non-volitional action, which means it is most likely an evolved reflex, and in order to be universally present in the human species, as it is today, it must have arisen a hell of a lot more than two millennia ago.

    You sure flipped one on me, alright. A strawman, that is – I never once said “people rarely laughed in biblical times compared to today.” Who said anything about laughter arising two millenia ago? You’re extrapolating baselessly here.

    I did imply that per population and cultural differences, coupled with the complete lack of television, internet, and mass-media culture, we have less total potential for laughter in general the further back we look in man’s historical and social evolution, and I said we should all factor this into our estimations of the matter.

  • Tom

    Cl, you claim you did not say that people rarely laughed in biblical times compared, yet your assertion that instances of laughter decrease further back in time directly implies it. We’re discussing Jesus laughing, so that’s where the two millennia figure comes from. On an evolutionary timescale, assuming laughter to be an evolved instinct, peoples’ propensity to laugh must have been similar at the time of Jesus as it is today.

    I don’t accept your assertion that life was too hard back then for people to be easily amused – if they had sufficient quality of life to waste time and effort following messiahs around or writing gospels, they surely would have had time for a little levity. Besides, there’s plenty of reference to laughter elsewhere in the ancient world. Plato’s Republic makes much use of it, for example, and even contains cautions against excess of laughter – for even the possibility of excessive laughter to arise, it can’t have been in as short supply as all that. Ancient Greek culture was certainly well acquainted with humour, and they weren’t as far away from the Holy Land as all that.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    Tom,

    …you claim you did not say that people rarely laughed in biblical times compared, yet your assertion that instances of laughter decrease further back in time directly implies it.

    My assertion does not “directly imply” people “rarely laughed in biblical times.” My assertion does imply that there were less people, and also less for people to laugh about – no YouTube, no comedy central, no feature films and the playwrights didn’t have an inkling of the exposure a modern screenwriter gets. See the difference?

    As for this,

    I don’t accept your assertion that life was too hard back then for people to be easily amused…

    I’ve not implied life was “too hard” and that people back then weren’t easily amused. Again, see above.

    …there’s plenty of reference to laughter elsewhere in the ancient world. Plato’s Republic makes much use of it, for example, and even contains cautions against excess of laughter – for even the possibility of excessive laughter to arise, it can’t have been in as short supply as all that. Ancient Greek culture was certainly well acquainted with humour, and they weren’t as far away from the Holy Land as all that.

    References of laughter that might or might not exist in the creative works of antiquity seems pretty pointless to me. Besides all of this is tangential. Nothing in your statement supports Ebonmuse’s claims that the Bible “depicts laughter only as a cruel act” and that “Jesus condemns laughter” in Luke 6:21-25. Those are what I’m interested in bantering about.

  • Brad

    The Bible does “depict laughter only as a cruel act,” though. I think that’s important.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    This debate has gone on far longer than I ever anticipated, and I don’t want to drag it out still further, but I have some final thoughts.

    Since cl is insistent about it, I’m happy to grant, for the sake of argument, his assertion that Sarah laughed joyfully when she found out she was pregnant. I also have no grudge against Ecclesiastes, which is far and away my favorite book of the Bible; if any biblical book had a positive mention of laughter, I’d expect it to be that one. Given this, I’d also acknowledge that the Bible contains a scattered few depictions of laughter that are not cruel or mocking. I can concede these things without a qualm because they really don’t affect my argument at all. Getting back to the substance of my original post, you’ll recall that it was an argument about how the Bible depicts God, and that he never displays mirth or laughter – neither in the Old Testament, nor in the New. Whenever God laughs, according to the Bible, it’s only ever in mockery of the suffering and doom of those who disbelieved him. This happens more than once.

    As I said, if Jesus was the epitome of how humans were meant to live, if his life was the template for godly behavior, then you would expect that he would laugh. That’s one of the fundamental acts by which humans respond to the world and communicate with each other, and one of the simplest and most basic pleasures of life. We don’t see it here. In the Bible, God’s interaction with humans is very one-dimensional, very black and white; there’s approval and righteousness, there’s fury and wrath, and there’s hardly anything in between. The Bible wallows in this judgmental and vindictive attitude, and as a result, there are whole areas of human experience, most notably laughter, that it misses out on. I don’t find that example something that should be praised or emulated. Rather than a healthy and balanced view of humanity, this is one of many areas where the Bible depicts the rigid and joyless view of the fundamentalist.

    On the topic, here’s a highly relevant verse from the Epistle of James I somehow overlooked before:

    Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. (4:8-9)

    Notice that weeping and mourning are judged to be how we “draw nigh” to God.

    Please note that if Ebonmuse’s interpretation of Luke 6:17-26 is correct, then Jesus is also condemning wealth (v.24), being well-fed (v.25), and the situation of receiving compliments (v.26).

    Yes, he is. It surprises me that you think this is a strange or radical interpretation. This “the last shall be first” theme is very much the message of the Beatitudes: that those who enjoyed the fruits and the esteem of this world will pay for it in the next, while God will reward the poor, the miserable, and the downtrodden (cf. the story of Lazarus and the rich man, a few chapters later in Luke). Do you really think that this is something only atheists have asserted or believed?

    Also, I want to point out the inconsistency of this…

    Anyone on the internet can post a bunch of ramblings and call them “Christian,” so expecting me to accept this argument from authority is just absurd.

    …And John Chrysostom is supposed to convince me how?

    So when I cite modern Christian bloggers and writers who feel that way, they’re just the ramblings of someone on the internet (and you aren’t, cl?), and they can be ignored because they have no authority on the matter. But when I cite Christian councils and church fathers, why, he just waves that away as well, because who cares what those guys think?

    cl is obviously set in his ways about this, and I don’t really expect to change his mind. But the rest of us can observe that my argument about the Bible’s views on laughter, far from being some radical atheist invention, is something that a large number of Christians throughout history have also noticed and believed. (Of course, unlike me, they consider it a positive rather than a negative.) That goes to show that this message is present in the Bible, regardless of whether you choose to admit it or not.

    Finally:

    I’m concerned with the way Ebonmuse tars Gary Collins with the religious epithet of “demon-believer.” Now I don’t know who Gary Collins is, nor have I ever heard of the man…

    Gary Collins is a clinical psychologist and president of the 15,000-member American Association of Christian Counselors. He was handpicked by apologist Lee Strobel for his book The Case for Christ. He also, as he freely admits in that book, believes that demons exist and that they are the cause of mental illness in at least some instances.

    …nor do I expect any atheist to respect his beliefs, but the tone is undisguisably derogative and the usage suggests that anyone who would believe demons could exist is some sort of fundamentalist wackaloon.

    You have it exactly right here, cl. My tone is derogatory, and I do think that anyone who still believes in demons is ignorant and credulous and deserves to be mocked. Some religious beliefs I can respect, even if I don’t agree with them; this is not one of those beliefs. It’s a cruel, childish and primitive superstition that any rational person should be ashamed of himself for holding.

  • amb

    what difference does it make if jesus laughed or not, or if the bible documented it or not? The bible also does not document the savior bathing, changing his clothes or using the bathroom….does that mean he did not do it? No it does not..so what is the fuss about? laughter is not just about being scornful…Psalms 126:2 says “our mouths were filled with laughter, our tounges with joy. then it was said amon the nations, “the lord had done great things for them.”‘ the word laughter in this verse in hebrew for sechowq–sekh-oke—it means laughter in merriment or defiance. laughter in those other verses were for those who were being definant or who were mocking God or his prophets, or who were laughing to make fun of.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    Ebonmuse,

    This debate has gone on far longer than I ever anticipated, and I don’t want to drag it out still further, but I have some final thoughts.

    I agree. I really don’t either, but I am glad at least you came back to discuss your positions.

    As far as where we stand in this whole mess, I’ve conceded and clarified quite a bit here, and you seem to think I disagree with you more than I actually do. If you haven’t, carefully read 7) in my comment November 12, 2008, 2:26 pm. Your apparently confusing my distaste for a few of your conclusions and also some from the thread as distaste for your main thesis or overall point, when that’s not necessarily the case.

    I agree with the first paragraph in your last comment entirely, and I’ve never really had much of a problem with the main thesis or overall point of the OP. What you’re saying is true; God is depicted as laughing vindictively at certain points in the OT and Jesus is not directly depicted as laughing in the NT. But I’m arguing that you drew a few overreaching conclusions, took things just a bit too far, and provided an estimation of scripture and laughter that was imbalanced. That was the point of my poop parody, as well as to show what I felt as the absurdity of making such an argument from silence. I argue that a few commenters took things too far as well. Consider the following:

    1) “[T]here are two… positive uses of laughter in the Bible…” (Wedge) False statement, yes or no?

    2) (The Bible) “only depicts laughter in a cruel way…” (Ebonmuse, paren. mine) False statement, yes or no?

    3) “There are 38 other verses using some variation of laughter (KJV). All negative.” (Wedge) False statement, yes or no?

    4) “Not only does Jesus never laugh, it seems, but he condemns those who do…” (Ebonmuse)

    I didn’t classify 4) automatically as false out of respect, because you still seem to defend your interpretation of Luke 6:21-25 as Jesus condemning laughter across the board, and I still disagree. If your interpretation is correct, then Jesus is also assigning great value to laughter in the preceding verse 21: “Blessed are those who mourn now, for ye shall laugh.” Why would Jesus describe them as blessed except that they were going to laugh, ie, experience a positive or pleasant thing? And how do you account for the double occurence of “for that is how their fathers treated the prophets before them,” once after each selection in the passage? Are there other verses that corroborate your claim here?

    Even with our differences in how we interpret Luke 6:21-25 aside, the other three statements are all undeniably false statements that were made in this thread. Now, I realize you say these minutia don’t compromise your overall thesis, and I agree – but my comments did add a healthy and realistic check to what was otherwise a conversation with some legitimate imbalance and misinformation going on.

    You also said,

    So when I cite modern Christian bloggers and writers who feel that way, they’re just the ramblings of someone on the internet (and you aren’t, cl?), and they can be ignored because they have no authority on the matter. But when I cite Christian councils and church fathers, why, he just waves that away as well, because who cares what those guys think?

    I suppose it’s okay if you want to refer to me as rambling. It’s just that, in your comment November 12, 2008, 9:49 am you offered arguments from authority based on mostly irrelevant non-sequiturs in place of an authentic argument of your own. I don’t mean to give the impression that I’m above other thinkers or that other thinkers’ pertinent opinions aren’t of valid concern in any given argument. Key word is pertinent, however, and of the people you cite, none of them appear to be arguing that Jesus condemns laughter. None of them seem to be making the claim that the Bible only depicts laughter in a cruel way. None of them were claiming there were only two ‘positive references’ to laughter in the Bible. None of them were claiming that every other verse besides Psalms 126:2 and Luke 6:21 and were negative. One or two of your last four sources offered does support the main point of the OP – they do not support any of the false claims I’ve taken issue with and that’s why I’ve dismissed them – I don’t disagree that the Bible has notably serious overtones, which a few of your sources do recognize – I disagree that the Bible has only serious overtones, or that the Bible condemns mirth, joy, or laughter.

    And you are misunderstanding at least one of your sources which you claim supports your point – the first source in your comment November 12, 2008, 9:49 am is a non-sequitur entirely – “Holy Laughter” belongs in the discussion about Benny Hinn type nonsense, as Polly noted in comment November 12, 2008, 2:35 pm. Your fourth source is also non-sequitur, at least the statement you offer. It is entirely in the context of mourning and sin, and keeping an outflow of sorrow. It is an argument by some faithful writer admonishing believers not to be lukewarm in their attitude towards repentance, and notice that to advocate solace or sorrow is not to debase or devalue laughter. So sources 1 and 4 are irrelevant to both the OP and the claims I take issue with, while sources 2 and 3 directly support the overall thesis of the OP but are also irrelevant to the claims I take issue with. So, sources 1-4 do not address my arguments, and that’s why I dismissed them. No offense to the writers was intended and no air of superiority was assumed.

    As for this,

    cl is obviously set in his ways about this, and I don’t really expect to change his mind. But the rest of us can observe that my argument about the Bible’s views on laughter, far from being some radical atheist invention, is something that a large number of Christians throughout history have also noticed and believed. (Of course, unlike me, they consider it a positive rather than a negative.) That goes to show that this message is present in the Bible, regardless of whether you choose to admit it or not.

    I’ve not implied your argument is some radical atheist invention. Where I think you might be gratuitous is in saying that the Bible has a ‘view’ on laughter at all. For me the logic does not flow when we offer the deduction that the Bible devalues laughter because God is depicted as laughing vindictively in the OT and Jesus is not depicted as not laughing at all in the NT. I think you run too far with your argument, while overlooking easy targets like Sarah and Ecclesiastes that should have been in a balanced discussion on scripture and laughter from the outset. That would have shown that you took a balanced and unbiased look at the whole topic and would have made a much stronger case to a reasonable believer.

    That you view scripture’s dealings with laughter as ‘negative’ is your opinion and not for me to challenge, but like you anticipated, I don’t ascribe negativity or morbidity to the fact that God is not depicted as laughing joyously in scripture. In fact, I’d be glad to explain precisely my opinion why we might not expect God to laugh joyously as well, especially if we are positing the all-loving, all-concerned type of God.

    At any rate, my problem was never your contention that God laughs vindictively in the Old Testament, and although I think the literal assertion that Jesus never laughed is baseless, my problem was never even your contention that Jesus is not depicted as laughing in the New Testament. I can live with those things.

    My problem was the 3 or 4 gratuitous but false statements that all spawned from the OP, and the fact that no one got called on them.

    Oh,

    My tone is derogatory, and I do think that anyone who still believes in demons is ignorant and credulous and deserves to be mocked… It’s a cruel, childish and primitive superstition that any rational person should be ashamed of himself for holding.

    Interesting response. So at what point is it okay to denigrate another human being because they believe in a different reality than you? I say that’s their freedom of religion and speech which is as important as yours and what this country stands for, and so long as they’re not interjecting such into politics or education, then what right have you to assume the moral high ground, especially since each walks a different path and none of us can prove anything? If one believes in angels, are they equally “ignorant, credulous and deserving to be mocked?” If someone who fell from a cliff sincerely believes an angel intervened and saved them, is that person complicit in a “cruel, childish and primitive superstition” and should they be “ashamed of themselves” for thinking such? Do you ascribe such harsh judgment to anyone who believes in any non-material beings?

    Either way, thanks for the banter and no hard feelings.

  • Brad

    I don’t ascribe negativity or morbidity to the fact that God is not depicted as laughing joyously in scripture. In fact, I’d be glad to explain precisely my opinion why we might not expect God to laugh joyously as well, especially if we are positing the all-loving, all-concerned type of God.

    I agree without reservation that you’ve held perfectly well to your criticisms against Jesus condemning laughter and laughter never being positive within the Bible. However, what you’re telling us here is that you actually have a defense against Ebonmuse’s original thesis! Personally, I would find that to be a more relevant and important point to make here than your other criticisms, and am surprised you haven’t covered it so much. I’m guessing it might someway include your contention that there were less people in olden times and less for people to laugh about. I’d be interested in hearing your case, one way or another.

    So at what point is it okay to denigrate another human being because they believe in a different reality than you? I say that’s their freedom of religion and speech which is as important as yours and what this country stands for, and so long as they’re not interjecting such into politics or education, then what right have you to assume the moral high ground, especially since each walks a different path and none of us can prove anything?

    Of course Collins has such freedoms – just not from reactionary criticism and mockery. When he’s the president of the American Association of Christian Counselors and a clinical psychologist, as a demon-believer he has it in for himself. To make an analogous example: would you like a Christian Scientist to be the president of the American Public Health Association? I wouldn’t – and it’s not just because of that person’s beliefs, but the implications of them. I don’t think Ebonmuse would denigrate Collins so much about his superstitions if he thought them actually harmless to others, and if he didn’t hold such a high position. I think that’s what Ebonmuse implied last comment.

    (I realize APHA is public and AACC is Christian, but my point stands.)

  • Brad

    amb,

    so what is the fuss about?

    I asked Ebonmuse to talk about this back in my first comment, and he has talked about it within two subsequent comments. (I grant your statement about sechowq, it is mainly used for joy/merriment.)

    laughter in those other verses were for those who were being definant or who were mocking God or his prophets, or who were laughing to make fun of.

    I suppose the Israelites might have thought they were fighting fire with fire then? How godly. Regardless, I think they also scorned people because of the perception of people not fitting in or living up to religious standards of righteousness that they ascribed to God. We all know what happened with pregnant women and the lepers.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info Ignorant, credulous, irrational, mockworthy, shameworthy demon-believer

    Brad,

    I agree without reservation that you’ve held perfectly well to your criticisms against Jesus condemning laughter and laughter never being positive within the Bible.

    Well thank you, Brad. It’s good to see at least one intelligent, reason-enshrining atheist grant an ignorant, credulous, irrational, mockworthy, shameworthy demon-believer a little credit when their arguments are actually cogent.

    However, what you’re telling us here is that you actually have a defense against Ebonmuse’s original thesis! Personally, I would find that to be a more relevant and important point to make here than your other criticisms, and am surprised you haven’t covered it so much.

    Here’s what I say to this: As you noted before, due to the title of the OP, I did originally get sucked into focusing on the fact that Ebonmuse’s was an argument from silence. Then false statements 1-3 popped up, along with 4 (which I allege is also false), and I got consumed with those. Besides, I’m mainly interested in being sure no factual misinformation is going on in these sorts of debates, because human beings reason not only from experience but also perception; thus, the closer our perceptions align with actuality, the purer is our sight of the available evidence. Allowing and encouraging the existence of misinformation and exaggerations obscures actuality. Actuality belongs to all of us, and people need clear and unobstructed access to actuality to engage in a proper chain of reason. Most atheists are set in their ways as are most believers, but those still swimming in the sea of affirmation deserve as little mud in their water as possible. As creationists shouldn’t muddy their water with pedestrian arguments from entropy, atheists shouldn’t muddy their water with exaggerated and biased interpretations of scripture.

    Either way, I’m not so sure the contention you cite is a defense against Ebonmuse’s thesis. IMO, Ebonmuse’s thesis was that God and Jesus are not depicted as laughing joyously in scripture. This is true, but it was where Ebonmuse and a few of the commenters went with this that I took issue with.

    I’m guessing it might someway include your contention that there were less people in olden times and less for people to laugh about. I’d be interested in hearing your case, one way or another.

    No; that bit about laughter was just another random variable that occurred to me as the thread progressed. To assume that God should laugh is to assume that it is appropriate for God to do so. Such an assumption is bold sans omniscience. As far as hearing my case as why an all-loving, all-concerned type of God might not be expected to laugh much in scripture, it’s longer of an argument than I want to tack onto this thread, but let’s just say it parallels the reasoning behind not doing certain things in times of war out of respect for those who are perishing. It’s ironic that as the war continues, our sports and other pop culture accoutrements proceed uninterrupted while thousands are dying and suffering the world over. Laughter is justified when appropriate. As with those who wear black to funerals, some feel it appropriate to adopt a somber attitude when fellow human beings are caught in the whirlwinds of tragedy and horror. How can God laugh while bigots and maniacs continue to kill and oppress in God’s name? How can God laugh throughout slavery when entire lineages were afraid to love one another because their ‘master’ could come and with one forced rape put it all to ruins? How can God laugh while blood poured in the Roman coliseums, at Carthage and Jewish internment camps? If those persuaded by the problem of evil fault God for not stepping in and directly stopping these things, surely they must fault God for sitting back and laughing while all this evil carries on as well, right?

    So we see that anyone who argues that an all-loving, all-concerned type God is obligated to prevent all evil (such as Ebonmuse) must certainly also argue that an all-loving, all-concerned type God should not be laughing so long as evil persists. If allowing evil to exist is wrong, surely laughing while it exists would be equally wrong. Interestingly, Ebonmuse is not arguing this, but the converse – that God should be laughing while evil has its moment. To flip his question – I find this disturbing, don’t you?

    And remember, just because God is not recorded as laughing in scripture doesn’t mean God hasn’t, doesn’t, or won’t again laugh. After all, there’s a time for everything, a time for every season. When everyone has made their decisions and the tallies are in, things might be different. Maybe not.

  • lpetrich

    ICIMSDB, your argument seems to be that the Bible’s description of Jesus Christ is very misleading on account of what that description left out.

    But I hope that you realize that that argument can be turned against you. For instance, Jesus Christ may have claimed to his disciples that he is only pretending to be the Messiah and the Son of God in order to get people to listen to him, and that it is very important that they help him maintain that pretense.

    That’s not in the Bible, of course, but how can we be sure that he never said that? If the Bible cannot rule out Jesus Christ having a sense of humor, then it cannot rule out Jesus Christ practicing a pious fraud.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    Ipetrich,

    Your absolutely correct. The ‘argument from silence’ wasn’t really my main issue. My main issue was 4 statements that I knew conclusively to be false. Three were proven such, Ebonmuse hasn’t responded to the last, which is a charge that “Jesus condemns laughter.”

    I also offer that Ebonmuse contradicts himself by expecting God / Jesus to laugh in scripture. When discussing the problem of evil, the classic atheist position is that God should be faulted for not stepping in as the world’s evil proceeds. So how does expecting God to lighten up and laugh fit in with this?

    Oh, you probably figured as much, but ICIMSDB is actually me, ‘cl’. Ebonmuse referred to me indirectly as all of those things, and I did that only to make mockery of what I perceived as a useless and insulting ad hominem. I wanted to make it my new, permanent moniker, but after a while, it would just get annoying.