UPDATED: Jewish authors seem to do very well in the religion section of Amazon’s Bestsellers which is updated hourly. I was directed to this list by Lisa Alcalay Klug, the author of Cool Jew: The Ultimate Guide for Every Member of the Tribe (see sidebar) and her Cool Jew Blog. Lisa’s book has been hovering in the top ten – and it’s not even out yet

Lewis Black has the #1 and #2 spots for his book Me of Little Faith.

A. J. Jacobs has the fourth spot for The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible

Only one of the top ten books in religion seems at all serious. One is serious but written with humor and levity. Seven are at least fully or in part comical and includes a calendar of Nuns doing funny things.

Does this mean that no one takes life seriously anymore? Is humor our form of religious worship?

I think that it is not so much a commentary on people’s inability to take life seriously, but rather that Americans have trouble discussing religious issues and find using humor makes it much easier.

UPDATE:
Thanks for pointing out my blunder – yes indeed this is a list of religion books in humor.
So my entire premise of the last part of this post is shot. In fact, all that I should now mention is that Jews like to make fun of religion – as do a lot of commenters down below.

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Rabbi Yonah

10 Comments

  • Rabbi Yonah, the US is a religious nation as 80% of all peeps attend services of some kind regularly. Some study that was released a few weeks ago said Americans are the worldchampions in hours spent on reading the Bible. Then again, Americans score horrifically bad at religious knowledge. cf. http://www.amazon.com/Religious-Literacy-American-Know-Doesnt/dp/0060859520/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1215797893&sr=8-1
    Those numbers in the book are just average findings, but they are expressive enough to see the huge difference between the largely secular yet religiously educated Western European states and the US.

  • “Does this mean that no one takes life seriously anymore?”

    No, it means no one takes religion seriously anymore.

  • Rabbi Yonah, since I teach I can assure it requires knowledge to talk about topics, otherwise it’s just empty blabber. That’s a trend you already see among charismatic or pentecostal sects; they defy critical religious studies and reject the validity of tradition, which is essential to understand not only the expressions but also the contents of belief. So, people can talk about it, but there needs a lot of teaching and learning to be done first.

  • Just means that all religion is a Joke.. Big boss in the sky will come down and crush you if your not good.. Better beware ye of little faith..

    Buy hey.. It keeps the flock off the streets ๐Ÿ™‚ Otherwise they would be perpetuating petty larceny like the rest of us..

  • Just a clarifying point – that list Klug directs to is the religion sublist of the humor section. So perhaps Yonah’s premise needs a bit of revision.

  • Still, religious education is lacking, and I dare say not only among US Christians, but even among many affiliated Jews and among about half of the Chasidim I’m friends with, despite yeshiva education.

    The great Judaist Salcia Landmann said a couple of decades ago, “To understand Jewish humour it takes a lot of religious knowledge. Only the Orthodox* possess that kind of knowledge these days. Alas, they don’t possess humour.”

    *Back then, Orthodox equalled to Chasidish. I’d argue that in Chasidishe circles (the male parts, that is), a type of humour has developed that “plays it safe”, so it may appear as naive to outsiders, but it often is marked by puns and quick wit. Yet, it has lost the edgy sarcasm and satire Orthodoxy had back in the day at the time my great-grandmother grew up in an Orthodox environment. That satire and sarcasm are vital to being constructively critical of authorities. Once constructive criticism fades away, critical questions also cease, so does knowledge as in something “studied for” (Latin: studere = to make efforts); it becomes an object of passive consumption and people get prone to indoctrination.

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