O Me of Little Faith

O Me of Little Faith

Trey Parker and Matt Stone on Mormons, Atheism, and Religion

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.

Comments read comments(23)
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posted February 24, 2011 at 9:36 am

I used to be really bothered by jokes made about Christianity, but I’m learning to mellow out and realize there are ones that are definitely warranted. I even paused last week’s episode of “The Big Bang Theory” to say to my husband the joke about ‘crying like a disgraced televangelist’ was pretty accurate. (My apologies if I have the exact wording of the joke wrong.)
After all, if we can’t laugh at ourselves, who can we laugh at? Well okay, a lot of people/things I’m sure. But IMO it’s a good thing to not take ourselves so seriously. :)

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posted February 24, 2011 at 9:41 am

They’re not exactly atheists, either, based on interviews they’ve given. They’ve lampooned atheists the same as they have other faiths. (See episode: Go God Go)

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Matt @ The Church of No People

posted February 24, 2011 at 11:31 am

In recent years, I’ve become more appreciative of the way South Park has “matured,” which seems like an oxymoron to say. You can pretty well bet that if something is in pop culture, it will be lampooned in a smart way by the show. I’m not offended by language or political incorrectness, and with few exceptions, I’m not offended by South Park, except for when they do cross the line to mocking religious beliefs themselves. I always thought Matt and Trey were raised Mormon. Mormonism has been a prominent theme throughout their careers.

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posted February 24, 2011 at 3:03 pm

Well, anything these guys do that is musical will be brilliant. Them losing the Oscar for best original song for the South Park movie was a crime. (Though their reaction to Phil Collins winning was absolutely spectacular!)
Personally, I find them pretty hilarious and have been a fan for a long time. I love that absolutely nothing (nothing!) is off the table for them. They mock everyone. That religion (and man, it’s all religion. And non-religion.) is part of their mocking doesn’t bother me at all. I think Matt and Trey are crazy talented and ridiculously funny. I’m very much in the “if they write it, I will watch it” camp.

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posted February 24, 2011 at 3:25 pm

As Hemant mentioned, they’ve poked fun of athiests as well. Another episode where they do it is “Cartman Wants a Wii”.
That’s what I like best about them and why their criticisms of Christianity sting less: they’re happy to point the finger in ALL directions. It’s the one thing that led me to enjoy South Park and reject Family Guy as my comedy of choice.

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Jere Tooley

posted February 24, 2011 at 3:37 pm

The past few years I have found myself very near the atheist/spiritual fence. The logical side of me doesn’t think that there is a spark after we die, why would there be? It just seems silly. But the other side that has witnessed spiritual “anomalies” if you will, wants badly to believe in a here-after.
Or maybe thats just fear talking… No one wants to believe that it just ends with a thud.
I like the comedy poked at religion. I have known piousness all my life here in Amarillo, and frankly it boils down to folks who either “get it” or don’t. All the other stuff is formality.
Having said that, Im glad we have religion. I don’t think mankind is smart enough yet to live without it, so there has to be a set of rules that even the dumbest can follow and be hopeful of eternal reward. (and no Im not saying all religious people are dumb)
So we must have religion until we all either “get it”, man destroys the earth, The Rapture (I’ll feel really silly if this happens) , Or Dolphins learn to use laser weapons.
By the way since Im neither religious nor atheist, I guess Im posting as a Mormon, and I love musicals.

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Geoff Robbins

posted February 24, 2011 at 4:15 pm

Wow – interesting post! I’m in the atheist camp. Not an “I hate religion” atheist, just an “I understand religion, but believe we don’t need it and can do better” camp. As the old tale is paraphrased, I disagree with religion but will defend the right to believe. Hell, I’m a scientist, science works entirely on the basis of people trying to disprove itself. Disagreeing and questioning is good, and you’ll find just as much in religious dogma as you will scientific dogma.
So South Park…?
There’s a double edged sword here. Yes, South Park (as with the Simpsons, Family Guy, The Daily Show and other gloriously non-conventional American conedy) specialises in offending for comedy value. I’m a little edgy when it comes to that kind of thing, because it’s really easy to just have a go at something because you think you’re right. The afore-mentioned cases do it with enough insight into “the enemy” to show that they fully understand the issues though, so I think they have a point.
They did cross the line with their picturing of the prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) in my opinion. Not because of any religious sensibility (see “I’m an atheist”, above), but because there’s a perfectly good reason for that rule under Islamic law…the simple concept is that Mohammed should be revered for what he said, not what he looks like on Facebook today. It’s exactly the same as the Judeo-Christian thing with the golden calf, and a point we should all pay more attention to. Jesus, for example, quite probably wasn’t a white Christian, he was most probably an olive-skinned, maybe arabic, Jew, and yet there are many, many people in the Western world who still hold the former view. There’s even people who think what I just said is important, when the point is that even as an atheist I can tell you that the fundamental message of Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha and even the crazy Jewish idea of a god without a human representative, is an absolutely correct one: be nice, help those around you, try to make sure everybody does the same.
And so we’re back to South Park. Even that one, simple rule above, being nice, requires that people do it voluntarily. It doesn’t work if you’re scaring people into it, because if they do then the first time we have a big worldwide problem it would all go to crap. Please excuse the language, but humans can’t pretend to be nice when the chips are down.
So South Park should do what they do. If it offends people then so be it, and they’ve offended me, I think they’ve overstepped the line at least once.
But if we didn’t question everything -including god, ethics, science and the words I’m writing just now – then we lose what it means to be human.
And if we’re going to agree at being nice, then we first need to be human.
Love, Geoff

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Geoff Robbins

posted February 24, 2011 at 4:27 pm

@Jere Tooley – “By the way since Im neither religious nor atheist, I guess Im posting as a Mormon, and I love musical” – wow, I think you’ll like this: (link provided with permission of the copyright holder,

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Jeremy Myers

posted February 24, 2011 at 5:35 pm

I say, “Laugh Away! Cause we’ll be the ones laughing while you’re BURNING IN HELL!!!!”
YIKES! NO! Really, I don’t believe that.
Look. The only people who can’t laugh at themselves are those who have got to be right all the time no matter what. A joke at their expense is seen as a threat to their power and authority.
Religious humor is funny because it is laced with so much (sad) truth about power, money, politics, selfishness, greed, insecurity, etc. These things must be pointed out to us.
On another note, I don’t have the whole story, but did you hear about the 21 year old from Kansas today who got sentenced to 25 years for threatening to kill the creators of South Park? This is not a joke. It really happened:
So South Park creators… I take back that whole “hell” thing above.

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posted February 25, 2011 at 12:37 am

I’m a Mormon and have only watched an episode or two of Southpark. In the article cited above, the creators seem very good hearted and I hope their musical turns out to be a reflection of that. However, one of the reasons I have chosen not to watch Southpark is because I don’t enjoy vulgar and mean humor.
I also think that in general more respect should be shown for things that are sacred to people.
I think the title of the musical is a bad choice, too. If you were to see a musical titled,”The Bible”, you might expect to see characters like Moses, Noah or David. A musical titled, “The Book of Mormon”, seems like it should be a musical version of stories from the “Book of Mormon”.

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posted March 2, 2011 at 11:19 am

There was a South Park episode called “All About Mormons” and you can watch the whole thing for free here:

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Dave Whittle

posted March 28, 2011 at 1:50 am

I’m a 7th-generation Mormon, and yet my trust in the faith of my fathers springs from my own love of truth. And anyone with an open mind knows that no one has life completely figured out. The only way anyone can explain everything is to ignore anything that doesn’t fit their worldview.

In my study of The Book of Mormon, I ultimately received a witness that it was true because it bore positive, sweet fruits in the lives of those I saw who believed it. Personally, then, I feel a bit of a kinship with Stone and Parker.

Joseph Smith once wrote: “The righteousness of man is sin, because it exacteth overmuch.” So I would hope my fellow Mormons accept and cherish the “love letter” from these two with gracious appreciation. Why take offense when none is intended? In this cynical age, anyone who is able to discover and communicate the fundamental glory of humanity and the core principle of our religion – namely the human capacity for love – deserves admiration, not condemnation.

We Mormons are totally comfortable with the idea that each human being is by nature deeply flawed, and yet can still scale mountains of moral achievement through faith. Otherwise, anyone who has studied the lives of the prophets Joseph Smith, Moses, Hosea, Mohammed, Brigham Young, or other flawed vessels of true revelation would necessarily conclude that God is inept at picking prophets. “By their fruits shall you know them.”

So I for one am looking forward, someday, to seeing “The Book of Mormon” on Broadway, blasphemy and profanity and sweetness and all. I hope to find in it a confirmation of my faith – that The Book of Mormon is a true and righteous work because it leads even deeply flawed men and women to a revelation of goodness and love that imbues their lives with purpose and dignity in a crazy world where nothing but goodness and love makes any sense at all.

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posted July 16, 2011 at 2:45 am

In a game of truth or dare…God chose DARE. As you all well know…you do not tempt God…HE WILL MAKE GOOD ON HIS PROMISES! (ask/knock and ye shall…get what you were not expecting)

Apparently, some idiot dared God to combine a Penguin, a Beaver, and a Duck….and make it work.

And there crept forth a creature upon the Earth so deranged that the Heaven’s shuddered. THE PLATYPUS.

God has a sense of humor that is devoid of sarcasm.

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posted October 22, 2011 at 10:20 pm

i am a muslim from egypt and i am very pleased with how the show is heading this realistic parable in the recent episodes, while not at all new or ground breaking still it is perfect and fitting for only SP. exposing the delusion doesnt matter what ur faith is what matters is that u wake up. i just hope they dont turn and promote atheism like most material u watch that take that road. id even like to see a mock episode of atheism, i mean Dane Cook did it stand up, or is making fun of atheism taboo? will the atheism god curse us? lol.

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posted October 27, 2011 at 6:59 pm

I am a believing mormon from England and saw the BofM in April. I loved it and have the album. I was in line about 5 times and my lat visit my name was called out in the lottery so had front row seats for only $32. I’d prefer a little less swearing but that didnt bother me too much. I loved the premise the Elder C made stuff up just like joseph Smith did and its not too bad because Mormons are nice people and their delusion is harmless. Great songs and great story. Highly recommended

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posted November 26, 2011 at 1:01 am

Mormonism is CHRISTIANITY, we aren’t MORMONISM. We are THE CHRUCH OF JESUS CHRIST of latter day saints. We are only dubbed Mormonism because we named our book after Mormon because he was the last person that testified in it and he held all the gold plates and kept them safe. But right on the cover is says another testament of Jesus Christ (Another testament, we still believe in the Holy Bible and we teach the principles from within the Bible, which we are normally discredited for.) We are Christian, we believe in Jesus Christ. There is no “Christianity to Mormonism”. We ARE Christians. People need to read the book! We are Christians the same way CATHOLICS are Christians.
Those who disagree should look up what Christian means. And the rest of you are ignorant if you will not listen. Mormon’s don’t belittle other beliefs, at least not the ones that live here or the head people in the church, everyone should respect that, and Each other.
Now, thoughts on the play? This post is a little late, but I’m okay with people poking fun at Mormons so long as they understand that Mormons are Christian and they do believe in Christ.

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posted February 10, 2012 at 10:20 am

I am an atheist and I’m usually not too shy to take off the kid-gloves when criticizing religion. I think Trey and Matt are onto something here though. If they can criticize in a way to make everyone laugh a little, then maybe we’re one step closer to having some rational discussion. There is a time and a place for the down and dirty Penn & Teller type of criticism, but usually that just makes people go on the defensive and close their minds to further discourse. Trey and Matt are brilliant for being able to say, “We love you guys, but really, this is how silly you look to us.”

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posted April 13, 2012 at 11:50 pm

D&C 29:21:
“And the great and abominable church, which is the whore of all the earth, shall be cast down by devouring fire, according as it is spoken by the mouth of Ezekiel the prophet, who spoke of these things, which have not come to pass but surely must, as I live, for abominations shall not reign.”

It seems to me that the Mormon’s detest Catholics

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Sabrynr Reidheadp

posted July 2, 2012 at 5:23 am

All right you are true, YouTube is finest video sharing website, as YouTube is a lightly no much streaming time rather than other blogs.

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