O Me of Little Faith

Mormons beware! South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone are working on a Broadway musical called The
Book of Mormon
. The play, which previews at the end of this month, is about two young men who head to Uganda as missionaries.
Hijinks ensue, apparently. There is much questioning of faith. And cursing. And uncomfortable moments. Some Mormons are excited about it. Most
Mormons, however, are a little more anxious.

But should they be? Other than about the bad words and stuff?

“We love musicals, and we love Mormons,” Trey Parker told Vogue in January. “I think if any
Mormons come and stay all the way through, they’ll end up liking the
show. I mean, it rips on them a lot, but in the end their spirit of
wanting to help wins the day.”

I’ve never been a devoted viewer of South Park, but have casually appreciated the way Parker and Stone, who claim to be atheists, are willing to poke holes in the dumb parts of religion — from Christianity to Mormonism to Islam — while also championing the morality at the heart of these religions. It’s “equal-opportunity religious mockery,” as this Slate article puts it.

For all the ridicule it heaps on organized religion, however, South Park,
like the town in which it’s set, espouses pretty traditional values.
Family and friends matter most. Political correctness chills honest
speech. Celebrities are empty inside. Mass hysteria–liberal or
conservative–is rarely warranted. And people should be able to believe
whatever they want to believe, as long as they’re not hurting anybody
else. South Park never attacks faith itself–it attacks
hypocrisy, gullibility, and the ways organized religions use fear,
power, and money to manipulate people.

I like this approach. For all their lampooning — and crassness — these guys seem to really be fond of religious people and their beliefs…as long as those beliefs are good for people and not dangerous. In the Slate article linked above, Stone himself describes The Book of Mormon as “an atheist’s love letter to religion.”

He adds: “At the end of the day, if the mass delusion of a religion makes you happy, makes your family work better, is that bad or good?”

That’s a pretty different kind of line than what you might get from more militant atheists like Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens, who hardly seem to be able to stand that people believe in a “mass delusion.”

Mormon readers: How do you feel about the musical? Interested? Annoyed? Enraged?

Atheist readers: How do you feel about Parker and Stone’s “soft,” graceful atheism?

Religious readers: How do you feel about jokes made at the expense of your religion? Necessary or over-the-line?

Let’s discuss.

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