Dear Donagh,

I googled the words good news and found your website.  I need a bit of good news.… Why are religious people so glum?  I go to a […] meeting now and again and what strikes me is that they are all so serious, some of them look depressed, and they’re nearly always giving out about something or someone.  I said it to a friend of mine and she said, Well Jesus never laughed, did he?  Is that true?  Should we all be dead serious the whole time?  I'm not like that at all and I'd hate to be like those people.  By the end of a meeting I'm depressed myself.  That's why I don’t go every week.  Tell me there's a better way.  Margaret

Dear Margaret,

The New Testament is riddled with the word ‘joy’.  I did a quick check and found about 130 instances of ‘joy’ and ‘rejoice’, not to mention all the synonyms of the word.  When St Paul listed the “fruits of the Spirit” he put love in the first place, of course, but followed it immediately with joy: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal 5:22-23). 

Nietzsche (1844-1900), the great enemy of all religious beliefs except in his ‘Übermensch’ – Superman – had a special distaste for Christianity.  “They would have to sing better songs for me to believe in their Saviour,” he wrote; “his disciples would have to look more redeemed.”  He must have known some people like the ones in your group.  It’s very ironic, and sad, that serious people who think they are the only ones taking religion seriously are actually strangling it to death. 

It’s not recorded in the New Testament that Jesus laughed.  That should be evidence enough that he did!   If he had never laughed, that would be something so remarkable that it would have been recorded.  How could someone who spoke like a poet not have a sense of humour?  His teasing nickname for Simon may be an example. “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas’ (which is translated Peter)” (Jn 1:42).  ‘Peter’ means ‘Rock’.  But Peter was exactly the opposite of a rock!  See his record.  I think it was one of Jesus’ jokes. 

He got his sense of humour from his Father.  “When God laughs at the soul and the soul laughs back at God, the persons of the Trinity are begotten,” wrote Meister Eckhart.  “When the Father laughs at the Son and the Son laughs back at the Father, that laughter gives pleasure, that pleasure gives joy, that joy gives love, and that is the Holy Spirit.”

Jesus was asked why he and his disciples didn’t fast like the Pharisees (Mk 2:18).  He replied, “The wedding-guests cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them, can they?”  He is often described in the gospels as sitting down to meals with friends and with just anybody; and he described the joy of heaven as a banquet (Mt 8:11).  Don’t let those glum people pull you down, Margaret.  See instead if you can pull them up.  You will be doing them a favour.  Why not take them to see Babette’s Feast?  Let them see how one jolly good meal can thaw a century of gloom. 


This is our Question and Answer desk. 
We respond to one question each month. 
If you would like to ask a question, please send it to