Friday, October 30, 2015

God Mocks: A History of Religious Satire, by Terry Lindvall

God Mocks: A History of Religious Satire, by Terry Lindvall
(New York University Press, 2015, 384 pp, $35)

a review by Edd Doerr

The long story of religious satire is told in scholar Terry Lindvall’s new book, off the press in mid-November. Lindvall’s detailed chronicle  runs from ancient Rome through such greats as Chaucer, Boccaccio, Erasmus and Rabelais to Voltaire and on to Mark Twain and Ambrose Bierce (my favorite) and then to Monty Python and Stephen Colbert. The book is a useful guide through this vast and often controversial output, though I do not agree with all he writes, as with his praise for C.S. Lewis, Chesterton, Belloc and Waugh, whose work defended what Bierce and others satirized. The book would be even better if it had been expanded to include more examples of the best satirists’ work.

Oddly, Lindvall does not mention Bill Maher, George Carlin, Mel Brooks, Larry David or Kahlil Gibran. And although he cites the Monty Python troupe and Colbert, he

overlooks the British series “The Vicar of Dibley” and two hilarious Irish series, “Father Ted” and “Moone Boy,” the latter two being satire too strong for American network television.

Edd Doerr

(Edd Doerr is a columnist in Free Inquiry,  president of Americans for Religious Liberty, and a published poet.)

In God Mocks, Terry Lindvall ventures into the muddy and dangerous realm of religious satire, chronicling its evolution from the biblical wit and humor of the Hebrew prophets through the Roman Era and the Middle Ages all the way up to the present.  He takes the reader on a journey through the work of Chaucer and his Canterbury Tales, Cervantes, Jonathan Swift, and Mark Twain, and ending with the mediated entertainment of modern wags like Stephen Colbert. 

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