Bulletin for the Study of Religion, Vol 42, No 3 (2013)

A Buddhist, a Christian, and an Atheist Walk into a Classroom: Pedagogical Reflections on Religion and Humor

Ken Derry
Issued Date: 27 Sep 2013


Although none of the articles in this issue on the topic of religion and humor are explicitly about teaching, in many ways all of them in fact share this central focus. In the examples discussed by the four authors, humor is used to deconstruct the category of religion; to comment on the distance between orthodoxy and praxis; to censure religion; and to enrich traditions in ways that can be quite self-critical. My response to these articles addresses each of the above lessons in specific relation to experiences I have had in, and strategies I have developed for, teaching a first-year introductory religion course at the University of Toronto.

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DOI: 10.1558/bsor.v42i3.37


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Desjardins, Michel. 2012. “Religious Studies that Really Schmecks: Introducing Food to the Academic Study of Religion.” In Failure and Nerve in the Study of Religion, edited by William Arnal, Willi Braun, and Russell McCutcheon, 147-156. London: Equinox.

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Garner, Randy L. 2006. “Humor in Pedagogy: How Ha-Ha can Lead to Aha!” College Teaching 54.1: 177-180. doi:10.3200/CTCH.54.1.177-180.

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LoSchiavo, Frank, and Mark Shatz. 2005. “Enhancing Online Instruction With Humor.” Teaching of Psychology 32.4: 246-248.

Oswalt, Patton. 2013. “A Closed Letter to Myself about Thievery, Heckling and Rape Jokes.” Patton Oswalt, June 14. http://www.pattonoswalt.com/index.cfm?page=spew&id=167.

Reps, Paul, and Nyogen Senzaki, eds. 1989 (1957). Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings. Garden City: Doubleday.

Wanzer, Melissa B. 2002. “Use of Humor in the Classroom: The Good, the Bad, and the Not-So-Funny Things That Teachers Say and Do.” In Communication for Teachers, edited by J. L. Chesebro and J. C. McCroskey, 116-125. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

West, Lindy. 2012. “How to Make a Rape Joke.” Jezebel, July 12. http://jezebel.com/5925186/how-to-make-a-rape-joke.

Episodes Referenced:

The Big Bang Theory. “The Re-Entry Minimization.” Episode #6.4. Originally aired 18 October, 2012. Written by Anthony Del Broccolo, Eric Kaplan, Chuck Lorre, Steven Molaro, Bill Prady, and Jim Reynolds. Directed by Mark Cendrowski.

Futurama. “Where No Fan Has Gone Before.” Episode #4.11. Originally aired 21 April 2002. Written by David A. Goodman. Directed by Patty Shinagawa.


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