Do You Think Humanists Have a Sense of Humor? Prove It.

January 5, 2009












CFI President and CEO Ronald A. Lindsay offers some light bulb jokes—and challenges other humanists to do better. This is an easy challenge to meet.

Check out the rules   here.



#1 darshia (Guest) on Monday January 05, 2009 at 7:06pm


#2 darshia (Guest) on Monday January 05, 2009 at 7:19pm

Well, at least Dr. Lindsay has something in common with Porky Pig, Huey, Duey and Louie and Winnie the Pooh. 

Please do not do a retake of this humor request with Tom Flynn!  It would leave too much to the imagination.

#3 dougsmith on Tuesday January 06, 2009 at 3:32pm

I suppose these aren’t official entries, but we have folks giving this the good college try on the CFI forum!

#4 Greg Farrell (Guest) on Tuesday January 06, 2009 at 7:48pm

A life-long atheist is lying in bed, very ill. His son is sitting by the bedside, expecting the end to come at any moment. The old man looks up at the boy and says, “Son, I want you to go for Father Murphy over at St. Paul’s.”

The son is totally taken aback.

“But Dad,” he says, “you’ve always been a die-hard skeptic! Why, after a lifetime of commitment to integrity would you throw it all away at the moment of truth?”

The old man looks up and says, “Son, please. It’s my last request. Get the priest for me!”

“But Dad,” cries the son, “you raised all of us kids to doubt religion’s unknowable claims. It’s another medical specialist you want now, not a priest!”

The old man manages to croak out the words, “Son, if you respect me, your own father, you’ll get the priest for me.”

So the father prevails and the son goes out to St. Paul’s. He rushes back with Father Murphy in tow. The priest goes into the old man’s room and immediately converts the old man before administering last rites. As the priest is leaving the house, he passes the old man’s other son and daughter rushing in.

The priest stares solemnly into the eyes of both the young man and woman.

“I’m afraid you’re too late, you two,” he says, “He’s a good believer now and I’ve saved his soul for the Lord.”

The young man and woman run up the stairs and burst into the room to confront their father and their brother now back at his side.

“Dad! Dad! Why did you do it?” his daughter cries. “You taught me to respect myself and that no man was god-ordained above me!”

The other son cries, “Dad! You taught me to love each other and embrace diversity! You taught us to seek truth wherever it led, especially when it made us least comfortable! Why in the world would you do such a thing now?”

“Well,” the old man says as he looks up at his perplexed children with a twinkle in his eye, “I figured if somebody had to go, it was better one of THEM than one of US.”

#5 Molly (Guest) on Tuesday January 06, 2009 at 11:06pm


#6 joshualipana on Friday January 09, 2009 at 12:43am

Hahahaha. Nice one Greg.

#7 JerryW (Guest) on Friday January 09, 2009 at 2:12am

Discussing whether humanists have a sense of humour or not is exactly equivalent to discussing whether tall people, or bicyclists, or welders, or stamp collectors have a sense of humour… ie a waste of time by virtue of the inane starting assumption that humanists would have more than the one thing in common

#8 r strle (Guest) on Friday January 09, 2009 at 10:55am

“Do You Think Humanists Have a Sense of Humor? Prove It.”

I enjoy humor of all types and even occasionally, when I can remember them, I will tell a joke or two.  However the very posing of the above question puzzles me.  I have encountered this question or something like it before and I am always puzzled as to the implication of the question.  A question like this seems to imply that if humanists (or whomever) “don’t” have a sense of humor there is something wrong with them or their cause.  Sort of like saying if you take yourself and your cause too seriously it somehow delegitimizes what you have to say.  I have tried to see the logic in this but I just can’t seem to connect the dots as in; if you don’t have a sense of humor you are or are not (??)  If you don’t have a sense of humor your cause is or is not (??)  If you don’t have a sense of humor you can or cannot (??)
It is not that I think there is anything wrong with humor and the appreciation of it, it is just that I don’t see how having a sense of humor or not having one is relevant to anything about humanists or atheists or Catholics or politicians or any other group.  I am sort of persuaded that not having a sense of humor “might, “ say something about an individual person but I don’t see it as all that significant for a group of people.  To give an example: What about the question, do you think humanists have an appreciation for music?  Prove it.

#9 Ronald A. Lindsay on Friday January 09, 2009 at 2:07pm

I think JerryW and r strle may be taking my challenge a little too seriously. (But no, I don’t think this proves anything about humanists possessing or lacking a sense of humor.) This blog entry was intended to promote the SHB humor contest and to coax some of our supporters and friends into sharing some humor. It was not designed to provoke a serious discussion about whether humanists as a group have a good or poor sense of humor. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that!) For the record, I don’t think one’s worldview has any connection to one’s wit. Sorry if I was unclear, and too tounge-in-cheek. To borrow from our Catholic friends, mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. Which reminds me, did you hear the one about the priest, the rabbi and the atheist who walk into a bar ... (Greg, another rimshot, please).

#10 r strle (Guest) on Friday January 09, 2009 at 3:07pm

“I think JerryW and r strle may be taking my challenge a little too seriously.”

I cannot of course speak for Jerry but I really was not intending a criticism or complaint of any kind.  The title of your post triggered an intellectual reaction that I have had on many occasions over the years and I thought I would throw out my observation as sort of an intellectual stimulus hoping that other critical thinkers might share their views and observations.  I was really only curious if others had ever noticed this and what they might think about it.

#11 Ophelia Benson on Saturday January 10, 2009 at 9:25am

Helen and Claire are exploring a Forida swamp.

Helen: Is it true that carrying a flashlight keeps you safe from alligators?

Claire: Depends how fast you carry the flashlight.

#12 JerryW on Saturday January 10, 2009 at 10:09am

Sorry: I did not realise you did not wish to be taken seriously.

I detect irony here…:-)

#13 r strle (Guest) on Saturday January 10, 2009 at 10:24am


I think I get your very funny brilliantly made point.

Well done!

#14 r strle (Guest) on Sunday January 11, 2009 at 8:10am

I finally have something to contribute. 

I once heard, the late (unfortunately), George Carlin say that he thought things that were true were the funniest things.

I agree and that is why George was at the top of my list of comedians.

So here I offer two pieces of humor one from George at:

#15 Ophelia Benson on Sunday January 11, 2009 at 10:42am

Hmmmm. I don’t think the best way to demonstrate that humanists have a sense of humor is to paste in the entire contents of a long email. An important part of a sense of humor (as with any other aesthetic practice) is the ability to select, and exclude, and edit. An important part of a sense of humor is judgment. Not all ‘jokes’ are funny, and in fact a pile of unfunny jokes is in some sense more counter-funny than is a mere absence of joking.

#16 r strle (Guest) on Sunday January 11, 2009 at 11:20am


I am shocked and somewhat taken aback.

It never occurred to me that this was a very long email.  I don’t know about you but I regularly receive emails a lot longer.  I have also seen posts and posted posts on blogs that were a lot longer.  I will seriously consider the length of all my posts from now on . 
As to the funniness of the material all I can say is I guess it all comes down to taste.  Perhaps my taste in humor is out of sync with mainstream humanists.
As I review my interaction with others on other CFI blogs in light of your rebuke I am thinking that perhaps my posts are in general too long and out of sync in other ways.  I thank you for pointing this out and I will give it serious consideration in all my future contributions to this and other blogs.

#17 Ophelia Benson on Sunday January 11, 2009 at 11:37am

Ouch - sorry r - I didn’t mean to shock! I didn’t mean to land like a ton of bricks, either. I was partly just musing aloud on the role of selection in aesthetic judgment.

#18 r strle (Guest) on Sunday January 11, 2009 at 7:03pm

I have learned that as I proceed in my usual “bull in the china shop” manner it is important that I pay close attention to the toleration boundaries of my audience.  In many years of honest analysis and experience I have found that I tend to be a less than sensitive to what many people might call mainstream conventions.  For this reason I have learned to pay attention to cues that might indicate that I have crossed certain boundaries of civil discourse.  To drone on tends to turn one’s voice into irritating background noise and to violate aesthetic sensibilities tends to reduce one’s message to the painful shriek of nails of a blackboard.  One of my goals in any discourse to balance magnitude (how much I say) and factual analysis (how I it) so I view your post as an alert signal that prompts me to redirect my attention from the details of the path to the landscape I am transversing.

#19 Liam (Guest) on Monday January 12, 2009 at 3:38am

I was thinking to myself that this was such a great idea - a real incentive to have some young enthusiastic secular humanist create some good youtube content .. until you got to the bit where it costs $20 to enter!

#20 Ronald A. Lindsay on Monday January 12, 2009 at 11:19am

Let me comment very briefly on Liam’s point. First, we decided that the Council for Secular Humanism, an affiliate of CFI, should sponsor the contest, in part because the Secular Humanist Bulletin (a publication one receives as an incident of membership in the Council) has a regular humor feature. There then followed some vigorous dicussion (we’re humanists after all)about whether we should restrict the contest to members only or open it up to everyone. The consensus was that we owed something to the thousands of individuals who are loyal members, some of whom have been paying membership dues for decades. The compromise was that we’d ask those who for whatever reason did not want to fork over 20 dollars (the minimum membership fee) to submit jokes that then would be posted on this blog—so they’d have the incentive of 15 minutes of fame, besides an opportunity to demonstrate their great wit. As with most compromises, this probably doesn’t satisfy everyone. But hey, it’s only 20 clams: the price of two cocktails or a couple of hours parking in most metropolitan areas. So skip drinks one night or take the subway and enter the contest! (BTW, some of us over 50 are capable of creating youtube content—or were you including us in the “young” category? Say yes and make one of my few remaining days.)

#21 Liam (Guest) on Monday January 12, 2009 at 11:30am

Ron, sorry for making you feel old but I really did mean young people! I think one of the main missions of any group should be to try to encourage young people to come over to their way of thinking, and I thought this competition could be aimed right at that group, a group that mightn’t have the 20 clams to spare. And by opening it up to a larger group you would have a higher chance of having some content created that a lot of people outside of humanism might find funny or interesting. But I take your point about owing something to the members.

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