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Terry Jones would “think twice” about satirising religion today

I’m always up for a bit of Monty Python, so I read this interview with Terry Jones with interest.

The Life Of Brian star says he never believed the 1979 comedy about Jesus would be as controversial as it was at the time. He certainly never expected people still to be discussing it now.

Jones, 69, says he and his fellow comics were able to make the film only because, at the time, religion “seemed to be on the back burner”.

He said: “I never thought it would be as controversial as it turned out, although I remember saying when we were writing it that some religious nutcase may take pot shots at us, and everyone replied, ‘No’.

“I took the view it wasn’t blasphemous,” he tells Radio Times. “At the time religion seemed to be on the back burner and it felt like kicking a dead donkey.” But he says: “It’s come back with a vengeance and we’d think twice about making it now.

It’s true that religion has come roaring back since the secular 70s, and we’re still feeling it now. But why would he think twice about making Life of Brian now? Python usually dealt out their surrealism with a light touch, but they certainly didn’t shy away from institutional targets. It wasn’t all kicking dead donkeys. (Usually it was dead parrots.) I hope it was an off-the-cuff remark.

Asked if he would make a satirical film about Muslims now, he replied, “Probably not – looking at Salman Rushdie. I suppose people would be frightened.”

I can’t tell you how disappointing I find this comment. I guess our heroes don’t stay young and argumentative forever. But it shows me that we really can slip backwards. Religions, more today than ever, take themselves too seriously, and try to claim for themselves a respect that’s way out of proportion to their truthfulness. The antidote is blasphemy and satire — the kind Monty Python was so good at. Thankfully, a new wave of skeptical satirists has arisen, and we can now enjoy Ricky Gervais, Tim Minchin, Sue Ann Post, Eddie Izzard, Julia Sweeney…

I’m missing people. Who’s on your list of funny atheists?

3 Comments

  1. Jamie Kilstein. Definitely.

  2. Stephen Fry. Bill Maher (although he's not all that funny).

    I wouldn't be too hard on Jones. I think even Dawkins has mentioned that he's reluctant to criticize Islam specifically, because he's afraid of violent repercussions. (And he pointed out that that's very much not a point in Islam's favor.)

  3. Bill Hicks comes to mind

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