Getting to the Point in a Crazy World
Who Wants the Same Religion as Fred Flintstone? What Happens When You Subject Faith to Theological Scrutiny.

The Philosophy of Humor

Can you believe that philosophers have undertaken to analyze humor? Of course they have—they analyze everything else. This should not have come as a surprise to me, and yet somehow it did. The very name philosophy is a marriage of ‘philo’ (love) and ‘sophia’ (wisdom). Their modus operendus? Put anything under the scope, subject it to enough thought-power, and it will yield its secrets.

New disciplines, once they reach critical mass, split off from philosophy to become entities of their own. What is known today as ‘science’ was once known as ‘natural philosophy. James Hall, the lecturer, tells of spying test tubes and bunsen burners advertised as ‘philosophical instruments.’* A more recent breakaway from the mother ship of philosophy is ‘psychology.’

Will humor also one day yield its secrets to philosophical scrutiny? Let us not sell these people short, but for now, we encounter few ‘humorologists.’ For now, we can content ourselves with people who know how to tell a good joke. For now, my self-description stands as one who not only appreciates self-deprecatory humor but also the kind of humor where you make fun of yourself. For now, no humorologist undertakes to explain why that statement is funny (or not).

Humor is not a favored child of philosophy. That, I learned in ‘Philosophy 101,’ a book by Paul Kleinman. Plato took a savage view toward it, as the lowest form of human interaction that did nothing but detract. His ‘philosopher kings’ were not allowed to engage in any humor at all! This seriously messes with my premise that the Jehovah’s Witnesses Governing Body is today the most manifest application of Plato’s ideals. Those guys joke all the time. True, some of the humor is lame—raising or lowering the mic for short or tall speakers, for example, a modest humor exists throughout JW-land. At our Assembly Hall, the human mic-adjusters have been replaced with a mic stand that does the job sans hands, being remote controlled from afar! Our crazily tall circuit overseer creates a disturbance when the auto-mic seeks to adjust for him, inching up, pausing, then inching up again, each time emitting a hum, because someone forgot to mute the thing. He just grins, being long used to it. That’s the kind of collective humor we’re used to, though individually, there are no end of brothers who just live to tell knee-slappers. Pause for just a moment to consider that there are far few sisters who do this. Is this variation an attribute of the sexes in general?

No one has sought to banish humor in the JW-world, least of all individual GB members themselves, but according to Plato, they should. They should become dour sourpusses who never crack a smile. Every time they do crack one, they destroy my theory that they are the modern day application of Plato’s philosopher-kings. So, they should stop doing it.

What grabs me is that church history is replete with sourpusses—stern-faced men who take everything with life-or-death seriousness, men to whom a joke would have been the ultimate sacrilege. Think the iron-faced Puritan leaders of ‘The Scarlet Letter,’ for example. Yet, such a revulsion to humor is not a Bible product. The Bible is fine with humor. The revulsion is a Greek philosophical product fused into the early Church when that Church ‘broadened out’ to increase its appeal and thus gain new converts.

Every Witness knows that the spread of ‘apostasy’ in the early centuries added ‘immortality of the soul’ to the belief system of Christians—it wasn’t there originally and must be read into the Bible to find it there. The immortal soul was infused in order to increase Church appeal to the educated philosophical class, the Greeks who prided themselves on their pursuit of wisdom. ‘Maybe some of these desirable fellows will come our way if we yield a little for them,’ Church fathers reasoned.

What I didn’t know was that a humorless view of life is also among the Greek imports. It is not a biblical product. It is a product of human philosophy! Yet, a life of devotion to God today is assumed by overall society to be a humorless one. It is anything but. Granted, you don’t cackle over everything under the sun. There is a time to be serious. But there is a time for laughter.

On a roll as to human philosophy infusing Christianity, whereupon Christianity itself is blamed as the source of it, one might consider resistance to investigative science itself. The notion that Christians are loathe to examine and look into things does not stem from Christianity. It stems from Aristotle—Greek philosopher of the 4th century BCE, whose views on the revelation of anything worth knowing was adopted into the early Church in order to increase its appeal to that ‘educated’ class.

With these early, evolving, church leaders; It was not biblical writings that ultimately carried the day. It was the writings of the philosophers. Yet historians retroactively assign that role to those worshipping God, as though worship makes a person backwards. It came from philosophy, not Christianity! Christianity’s mistake was to adopt it. When the pig-headed church leaders lit into Copernicus and Galileo for writing the earth is not the center of the universe, scholars assign pigheadedness to worshippers of God, whereas they ought to look to their own forebears. Human thinkers contaminate the product and then the biblical writings take the rap!

Back to the initial topic: humor. It’s not horrific in itself that philosophers should undertake to explain humor for the rest of us. It is more the eye-rolling dread at how they tend to get so full of themselves when they do that. But, even worse, it is the fear that it’s only a matter of time before they extend their research to other intangible qualities, such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and so forth—determined to examine spiritual things through the physical lens. Watch out when they do that, as when love is said to ‘evolve’ since without it, back in primitive days, predators would be eating your offspring while loveless you just shrugged and twiddled your thumbs. Beware the field of evolutionary psychology.

In recent years, much has been made by Jehovah’s Witnesses to identify these above qualities, listed at Galatians 5:22, as ‘fruitage’ of the spirit, rather than ‘works’ of the spirit. They contrast with the unpleasant traits listed just before (5:19), which ARE works: works of the flesh. The idea is that you can’t fully develop the former good qualities without God’s spirit, whereas yielding to the unpleasant traits is simply taking the path of least resistance. Anyone can do that. So, if they are fruitage of God’s spirit, good luck to human philosophers trying to analyze them. While you can put physical things on spiritual trial, you cannot put spiritual things on physical trial. You can achieve the knockoff imitation through physical means, and in many cases it is good enough. But if you want the variation that holds up through thick and thin, it is only through God’s spirit that such traits are developed. Sure—let the philosophers have at it—those fellows for whom it is pulling teeth to get them to agree that there even is a God. See what they have to tell us.

*’The Philosophy of Religion’


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Brother Herd is really funny

[Reply: :) ]

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