Redeeming Laughter


Redeeming Laughter 2nd ed. Edition  by Peter L. Berger (Author)

Amid the variety of human experiences, the comic occupies a distinctive place. It is simultaneously ubiquitous, relative, and fragile. In this book, Peter L. Berger reflects on the nature of the comic and its relationship to other human experiences. Berger contends that the comic is an integral aspect of human life, yet one that must be approached and analyzed circumspectly and circuitously. Beginning with an exploration of the anatomy of the comic, Berger addresses humor in philosophy, physiology, psychology, and the social sciences before turning to a discussion of different types of comedy and finally suggesting a theology of the comic in terms of its relationship to folly, redemption, and transcendence. Along the way, the reader is treated to a variety of jokes on a variety of topics, with particular emphasis on humor and its relationship to religion. Originally published in 1997, the second edition includes a new preface reflecting on Berger’s work in the intervening years, particularly on the relationship between humor and modernity.


Peter L. Berger (Boston, MA) is University Professor of Sociology, Emeritus, at Boston University and the founder and Senior Research Fellow of the Institute on Culture, Religion, and World Affairs. He has written numerous books on sociological theory, the sociology of religion, and Third World development. Among his more recent books are In Praise of Doubt (with Anton Zijderveld); Religious America, Secular Europe? (with Grace Davie and Effie Fokas); Questions of Faith; Many Globalizations (edited with Samuel Huntington); and Redeeming Laughter: The Comic Dimension of Human Experience. Professor Berger has received honorary degrees from Loyola University, University of Notre Dame, University of Geneva, University of Munich, Sofia University, and Renmin University of China.

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A continuing theme.

ByDr. M. J. Fosteron October 4, 2007

Format: Hardcover|Verified Purchase

I am heartened that Peter Berger continued to write books past the age when many have retired. Having now looked back at his first edition of “A Rumor of Angels” 1969, in his concluding remarks in the last chapter he mentions “the comic relief of redemption” – this giveaway phrase was explored a little more in the additional chapters supplied to the second edition of “A Rumor of Angels” 1990. In “Redeeming Laughter” the subject of the comic as a sign of transcendence is given full treatment.

In addition to the subject matter, the reader is stretched a little. The book is not aimed at “Common Language” readers (aimed at a low reading age, as is true for all too many present day books). when I first read the Social Construction of Reality (authored jointly with Thomas Luckman), and then the Sacred Canopy – I was forced to keep a dictionary at my side. This was then true as I read “A Rumor of Angles” back in the mid 1970s. Even though I continually have read academic books over the past 30 years (mainly historic) – as soon as I opened the pages of “Redeeming Laughter” I was again reaching for the Dictionary. This is not to say, the Author’s English is perfect, as it is not. For example in “A Rumor of Angels” 2nd Edition, Anchor Books, Doubleday 1990, page 126, Peter Berger writes; “I’m not looking for a new faith to be converted to” instead of the strictly correct “I’m not looking for a new faith to which to be converted”.

Peter Berger’s insights to belief, and his positive reaffirmation of faith, are not the results of a blind faith, but a faith which has been thought through at a deep level. He has shifted his position over the years in regards to secularisation as world events (especially the reassertion of Islam) have unravelled. As a side thought, I suspect that the oil money has much to do with the latter.

Redeeming Laughter is the further outworking of an earlier insight. We are clued in to the giveaway phrase of 1969, nearly thirty years afterwards – the wait has been worthwhile.

The combination of the Books, The Sacred Canopy, A Rumor of Angels 2nd Edition, and Redeeming Laughter, all ought to be read by any student seeking to enter full time Christian Ministry.

Dr Michael Foster. Rector of 10 Parishes in rural Dorset, England.

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