Religious jokes

Religious jokes December 9, 2011

I just got a copy of Fr. James Martin’s book Between Heaven and Mirth for an upcoming Patheos Book Club discussion. (You may know Fr. Martin from his role as chaplain of the Colbert Nation.)

This provides an excuse for a fine “Share Your Favorite Religious Joke” open thread at Deborah Arca’s Take and Read blog, which has dozens of good ones, groaners and classic old chestnuts.

Any discussion of religious jokes, I think, has to include Emo Philips’ classic bridge-jumper joke (video here). Philips wrote about that joke winning a Ship of Fools contest for Best Religious Joke in 2005. Philips, who seems slightly more normal in writing, also includes some of his other good religious jokes in that column. One more of his he doesn’t include there:

I pray a simple prayer every morning. It’s an ecumenical prayer. I think it speaks to the heart of every faith. It goes, “Lord, please break the laws of the universe for my convenience.”

Some other classics I like:

  • “Of course, but not all Baptists.”
  • “That’s where we put the fundamentalists. They think they’re the only ones up here.”
  • “I sent a radio report, a rowboat and a helicopter, what more do you want?”
  • “Buy a ticket already!”
  • “I know I’m supposed to say ‘Jesus,’ but it sure sounds like a squirrel to me.”
  • “Look busy.”

But if I have to pick a favorite, I’m going to reach back even further. This is a very old joke, but it’s still funny:

The Lord God appointed a bush, and made it come up over Jonah, to give shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort; so Jonah was very happy about the bush. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the bush, so that it withered. When the sun rose, God prepared a sultry east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint and asked that he might die. He said, ‘It is better for me to die than to live.’

But God said to Jonah, ‘Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?’ And he said, ‘Yes, angry enough to die.’ Then the Lord said, ‘You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labor and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?’


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  • muteKi

    “That’s OK, they don’t let us into the Home Depot either.”

    Also these two videos:

    I note, however, I find the second one funny for the wrong reasons, in a manner of speaking.

  • Patrick Anderson

    Here are the jokes I’ve saved over time:

    So an engineer is driving along when her car skids off a bridge and she plunges to an untimely demise. Immediately upon passing, the engineer sinks to hell.

    After spending a very short time in hell, the engineer figures out several ways to make life more comfortable and presents them to Satan. Satan is very impressed having not met very many engineers previously, and within weeks he has overseen the installation of air conditioners, escalators, and wi-fi.

    Next week at God and Satans regular golf game, Satan brags about how life in hell is getting very comfortable, like an underworld country club. God is visibly perturbed by this:
    “What? Where did you get an Engineer? There must be some mistake.”

    They check the records and sure enough the Engineer was supposed to go to heaven, but was diverted by a clerical error.

    So God says “Give me back my engineer or I’ll sue!”

    To which Satan responds “And just where are you going to find a lawyer?”


     So the Pope dies and goes to heaven and he gets to the pearly gates at the same time as a lawyer. So St. Peter is showing them around heaven in the St. Petermobile, and they pull up to a massive mansion, with perfectly manicured grounds and fountains and you name it. The Pope says to the lawyer, “Welcome to your new home in heaven. Your staff will be here for eternity to serve your every need.” So the lawyer hops out and the Pope is thinking he’s gonna SCORE. Something the size of the Taj Mahal with a bevy of willing virgins or whatever. But instead, they pull up in front of what looks like a medium-sized suburban home. “Here is your celestial home, Your Holiness. There’s some Lean Cuisines in the celestial freezer,” says St. Peter. The Pope is flabbergasted, he can’t believe this is all he’s getting, and he starts yelling about it. “I can’t believe that me, the POPE, gets this tiny little dump, and a lawyer — a LAWYER! gets that incredible mansion!”

    “Well,” says St. Pete, “we’ve got tons of Popes up here. But that was the first lawyer we’ve ever gotten!”


    A man goes into Confession. He tells the priest that he picked up two teenage girls hitchhiking and they came back to his place where they used him as a boytoy all night, taking turns making wild passionate love to him. The priest says, “What kind of a Catholic are you?” The man replies, I’m not Catholic.” The priest inquires, “Why are you telling me then?” The man replies, “I’m telling everyone.”


    Q: You know why Baptists don’t have sex standing up?
    A: It looks too much like they’re dancing.


    How do you tell a Baptist from a Methodist?
    The Methodist will say “Hi” to you when you run into him in the liquor store.


    Q. Why do you always take two Mormons fishing?
    A. Because if you only take one, he’ll drink all your beer


    Three men have died and are waiting at the pearly gates of Heaven.

    St. Peter looks at them and says “At the moment we’re a bit short on space, so those deserving who died more traumatically will get in first.  Tell me how each of you died.”

    The first man walks up and speaks “So I’m riding on an exercise bike in my apartment, when the pedals suddenly jam up and the bike throws me forward through the window!  I fall down a story, but manage to miraculously catch myself on the ledge of the window below, when a man comes out and starts hitting my hands.  I hold on, but he gets a hammer and hits them, and it’s too much and I have to let go.  I fall another two stories, landing flat on my back.  I’m hurt, but amazingly okay!  I start staggering to my feet when I look up and see a refridgerator coming down on me…”

    “Alright, that’s pretty traumatic.  In you go.”  St. Peter says.

    The second man walks up and says “Well, I just came home and found my wife naked.  She’d been cheating on me with some punk.  I took one look around and the window is wide open, and there the guy is hanging off the damn window ledge.  I start hitting his hands but he’s not dropping, so I grab my hammer and give him a few whacks and that does it.  Then I look down and the bastard is starting to get back up like nothing’s wrong!  So I grab our fridge, and throw it down at him, and then I get a heart attack and here I am.

    St Peter says “Well, we’ll have to look at that murder more closely.  To Purgatory with you!” and the man disappears.

    The third man walks up and says “So, get this:  I’m hiding in this refridgerator…”

  • A man and wife attended church one evening, and the wife decided that it was time to stop her husband from sleeping in Church. So, she took her hat pin and decided she would poke him every time he fell asleep.

    Right about the first time he fell asleep, the preacher, in the midst of his sermon, asked, “And who created the Universe?” The wife poked her husband and he yelled, “God!”

    The second time he fell asleep, the preacher asked, “And who died on the cross for you?” She poked her husband and he screamed, “Jesus Christ!”

    The third time, the preacher asked, “And what did Eve say to Adam after she bore him his 99th son?”

    The wife poked her husband and he jumped up and yelled, “If you stick me with that thing one more time, I am going to break it OFF!”

    And the preacher said, “Amen!”

  • Rikalous

    So a guy dies, as they do, and goes up to the Pearly Gates, as is traditional, where St. Peter has found a new hoop for the recently deceased to jump through (He’s been working a lousy job for a long time. He gets his amusement where he can. ). St. Peter wants to know what the bravest thing the dearly departed has ever done is. So the guy starts talking about one time when his team had just lost a game, and he’s lurching along, drunk and surly, when he passes by a biker bar. The biker bar’s loud and raucous, and this offends the guy. So he walks up to where they’ve all their Harleys parked, all in a row, and he lifts up his muddy boot and kicks the one on the end, sending them all down crashing like dominoes. Then, for good measure, he shouts into the sudden quiet, “The only good motorcycles are Japanese!” St. Peter’s impressed; that’s the best story he’s heard all day. He asks the guy when this happened. The guy shrugs, and says “Five, maybe ten minutes ago now.”

  • Rikalous

    The way I heard it was that one of the other Rabbis looks up and shouts “you keep out of this!”

    I’ve heard that version, except the Rabbi actually cites the theology that says G-d should keep out of it. Then the big guy complies and goes off to brag to his angels about how smart his Rabbis are.

  • Anonymous

    A Zen monk in New York stops in the street and orders a $1. hot dog. He gives the seller a $10 note, which the hot dog man puts in his pocket. Finally the Zen Monk says, “Hey, where’s my CHANGE???” The hot dog seller replies, “CHANGE comes from within!”

    IIRC, the next guy in line was another Buddhist.  He asked the hot dog vendor to make him one with everything.

  • Leum

    The Buddha and his followers are walking near a river, when a man comes forth and asks the Buddha to follow him. So the man and the Buddha wander off to the river. A few minutes later, the Buddha returns looking very sad. “That poor man has spent the last twenty years learning to walk on water when not half a mile from here the ferryman only charges half a penny!”

  • Q: You know why Baptists don’t have sex standing up?
    A: It looks too much like they’re dancing. 
    How do you tell a Baptist from a Methodist?
    The Methodist will say “Hi” to you when you run into him in the liquor store.
    Q. Why do you always take two Mormons fishing?
    A. Because if you only take one, he’ll drink all your beer—–

    I’ve heard all three of these told about my Mennonite ancestors.

  • As it turns out, most of the religious jokes I’ve heard are either offensive (“A jew, an italian and a gay guy die and go to heaven”) or too soon (“So Ed McMahon goes to heaven”), but I am partial to Rowan Atkinson’s “A Warm Welcome” bit:

    “…But for now I’m going to have to split you up in groups. Will you stop Screaming! Thank you.  Murders, over here please. … Thieves, if you could join them, and Lawyers, you’re in that lot too.  … The French, are you here? If you could just like to come down here with the Germans. I’m sure you have plenty to talk about. Okay, atheists? Atheists over here please. You must be feeling a right bunch of Nitwits. Never mind. And finally, christians. Christians? Ah yes, I’m sorry; the Jews were right.”

  • Anonymous

    My favorite has a beautiful young woman frantically brandishing her crucifix at the vampire that’s just invaded her bedroom:  the punchline is, “Sorry, lady, ‘svet gornisht helfen*.” 

    *Yiddish for “It won’t help a bit”.

  • Tonio

    Does this qualify as a religious joke?

    Two monks were traveling together, an older
    monk and a younger monk.  They noticed a young woman at the edge of a
    stream, afraid to cross.  The older monk picked her up, carried her
    across the stream and put her down safely on the other side.  The
    younger monk was astonished, but he didn’t say anything until their
    journey was over.  “Why did you carry that woman across the stream? 
    Monks aren’t supposed to touch any member of the opposite sex.” said the
    younger monk.  The older monk replied “I left her at the edge of the
    river, are you still carrying her?”

  • YetAnotherKevin

    A Catholic, a Baptist, and an Episcopalian are talking with each other about how they came to be in Purgatory.

    The Catholic:  I ate meat on a Friday.
    The Baptist:  I drank a beer.
    The Episcopalian:  I used the wrong fork for my salad.

  • Tonio

    The Episcopalian:  I used the wrong fork for my salad.

    I’ve heard a few references like that. But I’m not sure if they’re describing the denomination as old-money families or as educated elites or both. Most of the liberal Christians I know tend to be either Episcopalians or Unitarian Universalists.

  • WingedBeast

    It works as a moral tale, not as a joke.

  • Anonymous

    That one’s kind of got an uncomfortable ‘Jews are cheap’ undertone, though, doesn’t it?

  • Francois

    Jesus is nailed to the cross in agony, his mother and Mary Magdelene sobbing at his feet. While Jesus is trying to talk to his Father, saying “Forgive them for they know not…”, the two women are sobbing louder and louder, almost wailing.

    Jesus can’t even hear himself think anymore, so he lowers his gaze to the two women and says:

    “Mother, stop crying. I’ll only be gone for the weekend.”

  • Anonymous


    I think that’s actually from the Talmud.  There’s an account very much like it… I think it’s in the Talmud, anyway, or maybe a Midrash. 

    The brilliant and scholarly Rabbi Eliezer has some opinion on purifying ovens which isn’t shared by the council of Sages, and he gives a who lot of brilliant arguments, and starts performing miracles, and then there’s a Heavenly Voice who says he’s right, etc.

    The Council of Sages just says “since the Torah was given on Mt. Sinai, we pay no attention to heavenly voices, for it is written in your Torah, “decide according to the majority” (somewhere in Exodus).

    G-d is supposed to have laughed at this point and to have exclaimed ‘My children have defeated me, my children have defeated me!”

  • Anonymous

    A Communist died and since he was an honest man albeit atheist, he was sentenced to rotate spending one year in Hell and one year in Heaven.

    One year passed and Satan said to God : “Take this man as fast as possible, because he turned all my young demons into Young Pioneers, I have to restore some order.”

    Another year passed, Satan meets God again and tells him : “Lord God, it’s my turn now.”

    God replied : “First of all, don’t call me Lord God, but instead Comrade God;
    second, there is no God; and one more thing
    – don’t distract me or I’ll be late to the Party meeting.”

  • Jenny Islander

    The way I heard it, one of the things Elijah shouts over to the prophets of Baal is a euphemism for, “Are you sure he isn’t off taking a leak?”

  • Jenny Islander

    I lost the reference.  IIRC it happened somewhere in the Midwest, they were very conservative, patriarchal Christians, and I think they also homechurched, which worked out to the dad being the preacher and the wife and kids being the congregation.  He lost his job, she of course didn’t have a paycheck job, and the kids were too young to tell him to get bent and go get the food off the porch.  I think one of them died.

  • Tonio

    My favorite “jokes” about religion are three scenes from Life of Brian – the Sermon on the Mount where the listeners are squabbling so much that they can’t hear what Jesus is saying; the stoning; and Brian’s flight where he loses his shoe and his gourd and the crowd divides into rival Shoeites and Gourdenes.

  • eruonna

    Why can’t the Dalai Lama vacuum under his bed?  Because he has no attachments.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    A young priest about to say his first mass is nervous about delivering the homily in front of such a large congregation. He seeks advice from an older priest.

    – I find starting with a joke calms the nerves
    – But I don’t know any jokes appropriate for mass.
    – Here’s one: I have spent many of the happiest moments of my life in the arms of another man’s wife. I am speaking, of course, about my mother
    – OK, I’ll give it a shot.

    The big day comes and after the gospel is read Father looks out at everyone he has known watching him intently.

    – I spent many of the happiest moments of my life in the arms of another man’s wife….but for the life of me I can’t remember who it is!

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    It’s Northern Ireland during the height of the Troubles. Bridget goes to her mother and annouces that she intends to marry Tommy McKeon, a Protestant.

    Mam knows that Bridget is stubborn so instead of trying to talk her out of it, send her to the church to seek Our Lady’s counsel. Meanwhile Mam rings Fr O’Toole and explains the situation. Fr rushes into the church and hides behind a curtain next to Mary’s statue just before Bridget arrives.

    “Holy Mary, may marry Tommy McKeon?” she prays
    “No” he calls in falsetto
    “Shut up God, I’m talking to your mother”

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    A carload of nuns is in a traffic accident and end up in front of the Pearly Gates. St Peter gladly welcomes them to Paradise, but says that first they must be cleansed of any sexual sin.

    The first nun in line says, “I once looked at a man’s penis with lust”.
    St Peter instructs her to bathe her eyes with his bowl of Holy Water then enter through the gates.

    The second nun says, “I once touched a man’s penis”
    St Peter instructs her to wash her hands in the bowl of Holy Water then enter through the gates.

    At this, the fourth nun pushes the third aside, causing St Peter to query the disturbance.

    “I want to gargle that water before she sits in it”

  • B

    You’ve probably all heard this one, but it’s one of my favorites:

    Three men died at ended up at the pearly gates at the same time.  St. Peter said to them, “Welcome to Heaven, gentlemen!  We’ve instituted a new policy to see how how many people have heard our message on earth, so before I let you in, I need to ask all of you a question.”

    St. Peter takes the first man aside and says, “This is the question.  What is Easter?” 
    The first man says, “Easter… Easter… is that when we all get together and eat turkey and watch football?”
    “No,” says St. Peter.  “That’s Thanksgiving.”

    Then St. Peter takes the second man aside.  “This is the question.  What is Easter?” 
    The second man says, “Easter… ooh, I know this one … that’s the one with the big tree and the presents and all the lights, right?”
    “No,” says St. Peter.  “That’s Christmas.  This is rather discouraging. Clearly our PR needs some work.”

    St. Peter takes the third man aside.  “This is the question.  What is Easter?” 
    The third man says, “Easter is when our Lord Jesus Christ suffered on the cross for our sins.  He died and was buried, and on the third day He rose from the dead…”
    St. Peter stopped him.  “Wait!  Wait!  Come over hear so the first two gentlemen can hear this and learn what Easter is.”

    So the man came with St. Peter to where the other two men were waiting and said to them, “Easter is when our Lord Jesus Christ suffered on the cross for our sins.  He died and was buried, and on the third day He rose from the dead.  He came out of tomb, and He saw His shadow, so there were six more weeks of winter.”

  • Gavinparry

    Adam blamed Eve ..

    Eve blamed the serpent ..

    … and the serpent didn’t have a leg to stand on.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve heard it as Church of Christ.

  • Anonymous

    And the Wiccan priestess replied, “What rocks?”

  • Anonymous

    I’m surprised no one’s mentioned this one.  “Let’s get out of here, Timmy!  God’s missing and they think we did it!”

  • Tonio

    Gary Larson once wondered if this cartoon would result in him being zapped by a divine lightning bolt:

    That’s what I’ve always wondered about religious humor. If one thinks that gods exist, one might wonder if they would take jokes about themselves in good humor or if they were sensitive and quick to take offense. And the consequences of the latter would be far greater, as compared with a human on equal social terms who might simply stop associating with the joke-teller or who might respond in violence.

  • I like that one!

  • I’ve got a couple I like.  One was told by Eddie Murphy in “Coming To America”:

    “An old Jew is eating dinner at a nice restaurant.  The waiter brings him his soup and goes back to the kitchen.  When he passes by next, the Jew flags him down.  “Is there something else I can do for you, sir?”

    “Yes.  Waiter, I’d like you to taste this soup.”

    “Is there something wrong with it?”

    “No, I’d just like you to taste it.”

    “I can bring you another bowl if there’s a problem sir.”

    “That won’t be necessary; I’d just like you to have a taste of my soup.”

    The waiter, clearly flummoxed, gives in.  “Very well, sir.  I’ll taste your soup.”  He looks around the table for a moment, then says, “wait, where’s the spoon?”



    Another one I like is a lot more juvenile, but I’ve had a soft spot in my heart for it since I heard it in high school:

    An old rabbi was getting ready to retire.  As he was cleaning out his office, he found all the foreskins he’d held onto from every circumcision he ever performed.  He told one of his friends about them and said, “I don’t know what to do with them.”

    The friend says “look; I know a guy who works with leather.  Maybe he can do something with them.”  The rabbi, unsure what a leatherworker could do with them, hands the collection over to his friend.  A few weeks later, at the rabbi’s retirement party, the friend comes up to him.  “All right; I think you’ll like this.  I took them to my leatherworker friend and he said he had an idea.  I liked the idea, so I gave them to him and  I went ahead and paid for this — it’s my retirement gift to you.”  The friend hands him a small, leather changepurse.

    “Well, thank you!  I like it, though after all that buildup I guess I was expecting a little more.”

    “Well, that’s not all.  See, if you rub it, it turns into a suitcase.”

  • Indiana Joe

    “You were born a cow, raised as a cow, but now, you’re a fish.”

  • I don’t get the monk one. “Are you still carrying her?” Does carry have a double meaning?

  • Anonymous

    Not really. The monk who didn’t pick her up is still thinking about her, and the one who did touch her isn’t, is the point.

  • Tonio

    I don’t know the exact intended meeting of the parable. My own reading is about the letter of the law versus the spirit, that what’s ultimately important is how we treat others.

  • Leum

    Elijah’s contest with the prophets of Ba’al wasn’t exactly fair. As the local rabbi points out, Ba’al was a rain god and so producing fire wasn’t really his thing.

  • vsm

    Jewish comedy, with all its overbearing mothers, cheap rabbis and plain schlemiels, tends to be really self-deprecating. Those particular jokes originated among Jews and are here told by one, if I remember correctly, so they should be seen more as gently poking fun at oneself rather than any kind of hate speech.

  • Anonymous

    In fact, one of my favorite religious jokes is right there in the Book.

    How long have the Jews had the touch for stand-up comedy? I give you Exodus 14:11.

    [So Moses has taken the people out of Egypt and led them into the desert. And it’s hot and nasty, and there’s hardly any food or water. And people start complaining.]

    And they went to Moses, and they said, “What, there aren’t enough graves in Egypt, so you had to take us out here to die?”

  • Sapote3

    … in sleeping bags in church basements.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think I’ve heard that one.

  • …and the little boy looks heavenward and says, “OK, Mary, if you ever want to see your Son again…” (The priest told us that one during the homily, one Sunday Mass many years ago.)

    “…Whatever God wants, he keeps!” (Best imagined as being repeated amidst every evidence of raucous amusement by a robot on treads.)

  • It is indeed in the Talmud — Bava Metzia 59b — and it is unquestionably my favorite Talmud passage. It really deserves to be read in full. Discworld fans will note that the “I Don’t Call That Much Of An Argument” joke turns out to be there too, almost word for word, nearly 19 centuries before Pratchett. And when it goes from a river changing direction to the walls of the building they were in starting to fall inward, another rabbi rebukes the walls. And they stop.

    Then comes God butting in directly and being told to butt out.