So I am a regular reader and blogger at Beliefnet.com
. It is one of the largest gatherings of people across the religious spectrum (more eclectic and inclusive than our community at Conversantlife). Steven Waldman and staff are to be congratulated (hopefully) on their recent sale to Fox. Beliefnet built a brand by offering substantive and entertaining takes on a variety of spiritual subjects, with especially strong insights on entertainment
. But Beliefnet also brings a certain gravitas to the proceedings, definitely not made for or by Generation Y. Given their authority amongst those who take religion seriously, I suppose it was only a matter of time before they became a satirical target. (Is that still a form of flattery?)
chronicles all the embarrassing things done in the name of religion. And believe me, they have plenty of hilarious and tragic material to work with. So much of our conversation in Purple State of Mind
is informed by the lamentable things associated with religion, especially Christianity. Our hypocrisy and judgmentalism make it tough to ever recognize what we’re doing right. So much service done on behalf of the least of these is undercut by one preacher’s condemnation of the gay community or another clergyman’s sexual indescretions.
How did I find out about disbeliefnet.com? One of my former students told me. How did he find out about it? He helped create it. Yes, a lifetime of Christian education gave him profound insights into all the sad, silly, and bizarre things we continue to do in God’s name. I am a proud and conflicted teacher. Proud because we cannot shy away from the truth of what we’ve created. Conflicted because I don’t know when we go from being helped to hurt by such an exhaustive chronicle of our folly.
Disbeliefnet.com is actually a clever way to preview the ridicule being stockpiled within Bill Maher’s upcoming film, Religulous. This road movie is being directed by Larry Charles, one of the co-conspirators behind Borat. So expect a heady and hilarious mix of satire. Maher has always been an equal opportunity offender. Lionsgate has come up with a brilliant way to build the buzz months in advance. They remain the smartest, most subversive little studio in Hollywood. We’ll see how much grabbed footage they can clear without an avalanche of lawsuits following.
I agree with G. K. Chesterton’s famous observation that “The test of a good religion is whether or not it can laugh at itself.” Certainly, aberrant and abusive cults deserve all the shaming they can get. Yet, as I survey the Disbeliefnet site, I come away more sad than entertained. So many of these failings have already being discussed ad nauseaum. The virulent strands of religion are so vast that Disbeliefnet becomes not a chronicle of failed beliefs, but of the ongoing fragileness of humanity. We simply cannot help ourselves. We say and do stupid, harmful and regrettable things every single day. It is important to keep ourselves humble, to walk with a certain grace. But to parade our atrocities, well, at some point, it is no longer funny. We’ll see if Maher and Charles tread the line or cross over from comedy into cruelty. How do you respond when you survey Disbeliefnet.com?