Even atheists are sometimes disgusted with the facile excesses of certain expressions of ridicule, laced with blatant hatred, of religious belief and practice. Some anti-religious films are patently meant to shock. They succeed often in creating violent reaction on the part of non-atheist extremists whom some atheists dismiss as dangerous fascists.
There is a fragile frontier between ridiculing religion and respecting the norms of good taste. A case in point is the ridicule centered on the crucifix. It is too easy for an atheist speaker to end his diatribe with a sign of the cross, as he “blesses” his audience with an “In the name of Daddy and Mummy and their little Baby Bear” – or worse. After all, this sacred gesture recalls an instrument of torture and the excruciating pain inflicted on a Man called Jesus (whether He existed or not). Attempts at humor or heinous abuse of the symbol cannot fail to infuriate Christians, which is precisely the point of the exercise. But it is in fact pointless, because destined only to deepen rejection of atheism, rather than invite critical reflection.
Some puns and shaggy-dog stories about religious personalities, events and practices may succeed in raising a restrained smile from a tolerant believer, amused by the talent of the humorist. But it seems to me that extreme caution is called for in such a mine-field. Friends tell me that my own “ticklers and teasers” sometimes go a tad too far. My aim will continue to be to get Believers on the Brink to smile at their own credulity. If the pleasantry fails, I have not only wasted my time but have lost a potential convert.