I’m sure the banjo is a wonderful musical instrument. I’m not tempted to take it up, but I’m pretty sure the world is a better place because there are banjo players in it.
Banjo players don’t get a lot of respect, though. The banjo is on the short list of musical instruments that people like to make jokes about. Banjo, viola, trombone, accordion, and bagpipes — they all get abused from time to time.
Q: What’s the range of the viola? A: About 50 yards, if you have a good arm.
Q: What’s the difference between a chicken crossing the road and a trombone player crossing the road? A: The chicken is on his way to a gig.
I happen to play the cello. I only know one cello joke. (Q: What’s the difference between a cello and a coffin? A: The coffin has the dead guy on the inside.) There aren’t a lot of cello jokes, because the cello just happens to be widely admired.
Nonetheless, my enjoyment of playing the cello is, I’m sure, no different qualitatively from the enjoyment felt by a banjo player or an accordion player. It’s all good.
Here’s the terrible secret that makes a lot of people very uncomfortable: Religion is no different from playing the banjo or the accordion.
If it pleases you to paint yourself blue and dance naked around an oak tree, that’s terrific. If it pleases you to mumble phrases in Latin while sitting in a building with lots of stained glass windows, that’s terrific. If it pleases you to bow down toward Mecca five times a day while reciting phrases in Arabic, that’s terrific. If it pleases you to take peyote and sit in a sweat lodge hallucinating all night long, that’s terrific.
And it’s nobody’s business but your own. If you get tired of taking peyote and decide to start mumbling phrases in Latin, go for it.
If a banjo player got mad and started hitting people when they made banjo jokes, what would we call him? We’d call him an asshole. No matter what your lifestyle choice, you have to expect to get lampooned once in a while. If you’re a mature adult, you roll with it. You force yourself to chuckle politely, even if you think the joke wasn’t very funny.
Anyone who thinks their religion should never be criticized or ridiculed is an asshole. If they try to shut off the criticism, that’s a lot worse — but if you even think for a moment that your religion is so wonderful and admirable that it should be exempt from criticism or lampooning, you’re an asshole.
It’s gonna happen. Deal with it.