I spent this past New Year's week in Paris. Besides taking advantage of the sights and celebrations of the City of Lights, I was there doing some research on a spoofy novel I'm writing that leans heavily on The Da Vinci Code. I had pictures taken in obvious mocking poses next to the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, the Eiffel Tower and Versailles. Many eyes rolled. Not one shot fired.
Larry Gelbart (1938-20009), the legendary screenwriter of films such as Barbarians at the Gate, Tootsie and 1977's Oh, God, as well as co-creator of the television series M*A*S*H*, would be biting at the bit to hit the keyboard to update his film, Oh, God! Starring George Burns as God, Gelbart would have never thought his comedy would need Burns to address, satirically, thugs who disgustingly distort religion as a rationale to murder innocents. I know many satirists. I don't know any of them who would consider themselves innocent. In fact they would take that as an insult. But to become targets for assassination, at best, would be a source for even more satirization.
Gelbart's God felt it was necessary to point out that certain so-called religious men were only snake-oil salesmen in the guise of religious leaders who decided that the best way to entice people to support them financially or otherwise was to tell them that God not only spoke to them but through them. Their line of logic was powerful. They based their interpretations of what God meant by the words someone else wrote about what God meant many hundreds or thousands of years after God supposedly said what he said, did or meant. How I wish I could have used that system of citations to substantiate my high school essays.
I spent time as the political editor of National Lampoon, the pre-Onion satire magazine and website of record. My boss leaned right and he relished mocking the right. I am and continue to be a flaming liberal (ask Bill O'Reilly) and I created the most successful right-wing satirical site (moveonplease.org) at the time ripping the political left. The point is, satire was our politics. What needed to be mocked -- Democrat, Republican or Independent -- demanded to be mocked. Not that everyone got it. Scott Rubin, my editor, said that satire done best would be difficult to distinguish from the truth. But he never mentioned that what we did was a risk to our lives. Maybe to our economic survival (would the checks clear?), but getting gunned down for a joke...?
Since my friend Mr. Gelbart has passed, allow my attempt to pre-suppose his 2015 update. Larry might have had George Burn's God questioned by a terrorist intent on killing those who mock their belief.
Terrorist (played Sasha Cohen) : You say you are God. Are you also Allah?
God: Is Allah not God?
Terrorist: Of course.
God: Then haven't you just answered your own question?
God: So you believe Allah is an infidel.
Terrorist: I did not say that.
God: My apologies. Then you must be saying that Allah is a liar. As I am God I am also Allah, as I am Buddha, Aten and Yahweh. I'm your basic one size fits all. Kind of like a Snuggy deity.
Terrorist: Then if you are Allah, You know I am only doing what I must if You or Your messenger Mohammed's name are taken in vain.
God: So, if I get this straight. Although I am Allah, you don't think I'm powerful enough to handle some cartoonists drawing silly comics.
Terrorist: Yes. Of course You are. I thought maybe, maybe You had something more important to do
God: A lousy cartoon. If I didn't want to allow those cartoons to be drawn I would have gotten rid of ink.
Terrorist: I meant to do it in Your name.
God: You want to do something in my name. Feed the poor.
Terrorist: As you say.
God: By the way, there are plenty of virgins in heaven.
Terrorist: Praised be, Allah.
God: Unfortunately, that's not where you're going.
Using your interpretation of God's words as impetus to silence another's words is highly suspect. Using your God's words as justification to slaughter another is an insult to every god.
Award-winning TV writer, Steve Young, is author of "Great Failures of the Extremely Successful" (www.greatfailure.com)