The existence of humor in the universe is a powerful argument for the existence of God.
Have you ever noticed that newborn babies do not laugh? Why is that? No matter what you do, they will not laugh. The reason for that is they do not understand language and they do not have life experience.
There are many elements that make something “funny”:
Surprise, parody, imitation, incongruity, caricature, satire, sarcasm, hyperbole, irony, misunderstanding, double meanings, stereotyping, etc.
Violation of “Normal”
Do you see a common theme here? All these things suggest (necessitate) that there is a “normal,” that is being violated. This demonstrates that we all know, intuitively, that we live in an ordered and designed universe. There are certain laws that regulate our existence. They are predictable and comforting. It is important to our lives that when we walk out the front door in the morning, we do not suddenly begin to float off into the air. But if we saw this happen in a movie, especially with some exaggeration on the part of the actor, we might laugh.
If a child sees a picture of a purple cow with pink polka dots dancing and playing an accordion, he or she will probably laugh. A baby will not. The difference is the knowledge of truth. A child has learned about the reality of cows. Cows have certain ontological characteristics that are predictable. Even young children learn the cowness of the cow. Without the existence of a fixed reference point, the unexpected isn’t funny (because there is no expected).
An older baby laughs at the parent who makes funny faces, because they have learned the parent’s “normal” face.
Intentional mimicry is not the same as falsehood. Falsehood is the antithesis of truth; humor is a tribute to it.
Humor as a Christian Apologetic
When we rejoice in seeing a contortion of reality, we are, in a back-handed way, acknowledging the inherit existence of absolute truth. For there to be an exception to a rule, there must be a rule. Whether through intentional theological gratitude, or through “common grace,” we admit that there are fixed laws to which we are all accountable.
From whence does this order, and precision and predictability emerge? If everything in the universe was random and chaotic, humor would not exist. There would only be sheer frustration and chaos. We need the water to come on when we turn on the faucet, the car to start when we need to go to work, the sun to come up again tomorrow morning, and set tomorrow night. The mundane is a great mercy in our lives. We do not appreciate it nearly enough.
But we also long to believe that there is something more than the mundane, imprisoned drumbeat of scientific determinism. This is why we enjoy art, literature, music, cuisine, sport, etc. We enjoy the diversity that we find within the unity of each of those endeavors.
Something that is off-beat, quirky or embellished tickles our funny bone, because it not only provides variety and momentary escape from the monotony of existential reality, but it also reminds us that there is constancy in the universe, and that simultaneously provides both security and hope. We are safe, but we are not stuck. We know how things work, but we also do not. We can rest, but not too much.
Humor and the Fallen World
Some of the distortion we recognize in the world comes from what theologians call, “The Fall.” When Adam and Eve sinned, the entire world was cursed. Bad things happen and brokenness has corrupted the landscape.
For some, humor is an attempt to escape from harsh reality. Many use humor as a narcotic, to numb pain, or worse yet, as a weapon they wield against others. But even in that, there is the realization that life is not supposed to be like this. There must be something more. There must be hope.
God Created the Capacity for Humor
All of this points to a prime axiom (the teleological argument). For there to be truth, and order in the universe, those things must have existed in the first cause. The “big bang,” has no ontological explanation for structure and precision. Explosions only make things less orderly, not more orderly. If the big bang were truly the cause of our existence, we could never have humor, because we would only ever have randomness and disorder. While holy scripture often veils the mirth of the Creator, His creation constantly reflects joy, enjoyment and the capacity to revel in the ridiculous. Since we are made in God’s image, it stands to reason that God Himself (who IS truth), would have a great enjoyment in watching our child-like attempts to grasp the complexity and fullness of truth.
When we enjoy a belly laugh, we are, at least as Christians, engaging in an act of worship. We are recognizing the Creator of the created order, and we are rejoicing in the fact that He has allowed us to have diversion, but also transcendent hope, from the what the world considers to be the cold, cruel fatalism of a heartless, mechanical universe.
“Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy, then they said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’ The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad.” (Psalm 126:2-3, ESV)