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the laugh judgment


YOU CAN NOW officially stop laughing. The Laugh Judgment, our competition to find the funniest and most offensive religious jokes, in response to the British government's proposed anti-religious hatred legislation, is finally over.

And we have two winners. Our funniest religious joke is about sectarianism gone mad, while our most offensive is a sick tale of tragedy on a clifftop – as voted for by Ship of Fools readers. Read on for the jokes.

OVER THE SEVEN WEEKS of the competition, 951 jokes were emailed to us, and after careful selection, 82 of the most promising and provocative were posted online for debate. All the jokes are still available – click here. Over 10,000 votes were cast to determine which ones made our readers laugh the most, and which ones best deserved the fire and brimstone treatment.

"It's been very worthwhile collecting and debating all the jokes," says Simon Jenkins, editor of Ship of Fools. "Even though we strongly disagree with some of them, it's important that people are free to tell them, and free to criticise and ridicule religious belief. The government's intention to curb freedom of speech in the religious sphere remains a cause for alarm."

The results were revealed on Bank Holiday weekend at the Greenbelt Christian Festival in Cheltenham, where all the jokes were performed live before an audience, in two Top Ten lists: the Top 10 funniest jokes, and the Top 10 most offensive jokes. "Funnily enough, there was almost no overlap between the highest scoring funnies and the highest scoring offenders," says Steve Tomkins, one of the judging panel.

All 20 jokes were read out in the show and debated by a panel which included an editor, an actor and a comedy writer (which sounds like the start of a joke in itself).

The show saw several moments of drama. One of the panellists left the stage before the reading of the offensive Top 10, saying he was worried that the Almighty might strike him dead for listening to the jokes, which have sexual, racist and blasphemous content. When he came back after the reading, he told the audience they should repent for laughing at some of the jokes. "I found that more offensive than the jokes!" said one audience member afterwards.

The first few offensive jokes were greeted with some scattered laughter, but the final few in the Top Ten were heard either in complete silence, or with a sharp collective intake of breath. Which was fair enough... the final few jokes are very dark. According to the Church Times reporter:

"The session came with very necessary health warnings, and people were offered frequent opportunities to leave, as their tolerance level was reached and breached. The laughter gradually subsided until the worst two or three jokes, which were so sick that nobody laughed. Few, if any, would want to repeat them."

HERE ARE THE winning jokes, with the funniest and most offensive in the No.1 position. Clicking the links takes you to the discussion threads where each joke was debated, enjoyed, reviled, laughed at, anathematised, or generally analysed to death.

Top 10 funniest religious jokes

1. Man on a bridge
2. Whoever is without sin
3. A problem in the convent
4. The four sinning nuns
5. The twelve priests
6. The desperate man on a train
7. Secrets of the confessional
8. Jesus at the Pearly Gates
9. The Trinity's holiday
10. The talking statue

Top 10 most offensive religious jokes

1. The girl on a cliff
2. Following St Onan
3. Priest and pimple
4. Hitler at the Pearly Gates
5. What do you give...
6. Adventure trip for boys
7. Picture of Jesus
8. Jesus and the motel
9. A sign in the sky
10. Calling for Jesus

Over the course of the competition, Ship of Fools readers debated some of the wider issues surrounding religion and humour, too. Such as: why does Roman Catholicism (including the Pope, the confessional, nuns, priests and Mothers Superior) feature so strongly in popular jokes? And: are there some subjects, such as the suffering and death of Jesus, which should never be treated humorously?

To read and contribute to the debate, click here to visit the Laugh Judgment bulletin board. The general debate threads are at the top of the board.

PLEASE NOTE: Ship of Fools does not endorse or commend the jokes we've received. We think that some of them are very funny and they’ve made us laugh out loud. But we think others are rubbish, sick, boring or tasteless.

We're presenting them here simply because we think they raise all sorts of interesting questions about heaven and humour, God and gags, faith and freedom of speech, and we want to talk about the issues. And laugh at the ones we find truly funny, of course.

Here endeth the disclaimer.
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