I think we could also say that religion is too important to be taken seriously. I've often felt that religious people take religion too seriously and could do with a bit of a sense of humour. I actually said this at a recent interfaith panel I was on and am not quite sure how the audience, never mind the other pannelists, took to it. It seems a bit strange for someone who has committed her life to religion and who thinks that religion can make a significant contribution to the world to make such a comment.
But what do I mean by that? I mean that sometime it sounds as though religion is an end in itself, rather than a framework within which people find meaning, value and purpose. It's important and we need more of the values that are at the heart of all the major world religions - love, compassion, justice, peace, equality, generosity, magnaminity but it's not an end in itself. It's the field in which the pearl of great price is hidden but focus too much on the field the pearl will never be found, just like the finger pointing to the moon - focus on the finger and you'll never see the moon.
To take religion too seriously is to focus on the institution with its need for maintenance and order and the tendency to compare one with another - my truth is better than your truth, my way of life better than yours. Then we become over-defensive about our own and overly critical of others. It's this kind of approach that leads to the kind of proslytisation that forces one's own belief on others and is intolerant of others. It focuses more on the head than the heart, on thinking that faith can come from persuasion and argument than from recognition or relationship. It focuses on dogma to the extent that it can lead to competition as to where truth lies and to accusations of heresy. It can focus on what religion says rather than what it means.
To take oneself too seriously is not psychologically healthy and the ability to laugh at oneself can release tension and put things into perspective. So too with religions. Some religions are good at this, better than others. Judaism immediately comes to mind and as a Catholic growing up in a sectarian society we had in-jokes that helped us sit lightly on this. I suppose the problem is when we laught at others or humiliate them through humour. For some people humour is a subtle way of getting at others, of undermining them and then it can become a weapon rather than a life-opening moment. Perhaps the answer is in the intention. To laugh healthily and poke fun at religion by bringing it down to earth and helping it recognise its idiosyncrasies can be no bad thing. There are certainly many comic characters and stories in religion but that's a story for another blog.