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For a translation of his humor into English, see The Humor of Kierkegaard, ed. Thomas C. Oden. Some of it is laugh-out-loud funny, like his description of the ridiculousness of state religion:

"Rather than taking part in official Christianity with the thousandth part of my little-finger nail, I would rather engage in the following display of seriousness. A flag is purchased at a hardware store, it is unfurled; with great reverence I approach it, lift up three fingers and swear fidelity to the flag. Thereupon, rigged out in a cocked hat, a cartridge-belt and sword (all from the hardware store), I mount a hobbyhorse, proposing in union with others to make an attack upon the enemy, with contempt for the mortal danger into which I am evidently casting myself, with the seriousness of one who knows what it signifies to have sworn fidelity to the flag."

Kierkegaard's "Attack upon 'Christendom'" [277-78]




Oh man, I couldn't even understand what he meant, let alone find the humour in it.


Yeah, translations need to take into account changes in writing style over the centuries in addition to changes in language.

Here's the joke in "modern English":

Instead of joining the state's church, I propose instead the following. I will buy a flag, a uniform, a gun, and one of those battery-powered toy jeeps that little kids drive around their yards. Then, with grave seriousness, I will declare my faith in God's protection, furl out my flag, and call for the members of the state's church to follow me into battle. I will then hop in my toy jeep and begin driving toward the battle field.


Maybe I'm slow, but I still don't get it. Is he saying that members of the state's church will follow him blindly (making them out to be dumb / sheeple)? Or is he saying that even such a ridiculous sight is less ridiculous than the church? Maybe he's satirizing the state's enthusiasm for war? I feel like I'm missing context here. Or maybe this is why people say his humor is weird...


It's funny to think of a grown man on a little toy jeep/horse all dressed up for war and taking seriously his trip to the front line and into the battlefield. That's the "funny" part of the joke. And it's not weird funny, it's just normal funny.

The deeper point being made isn't possible to ascertain from just this snippet; you'd have to put the joke back into its context and find the larger point being made in the text around the joke. (edit: but, see racer-v's explanation)


I see, thank you, so he's making fun of how silly swearing fidelity is and taking it seriously is.


Yes; there's a certain unwholesome smugness in a person who conflates civic duty (e.g. fighting for his country) with religious purpose, which Kierkegaard mocks here.


The comparison is to a ritual that feels very important and profound to those involved, but to an outside observer is clearly a childish imitation of the real thing (like a hobby-horse):

http://www.oldbike.eu/museum/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/1920...

https://www.istockphoto.com/vector/victorian-boy-riding-his-...


Ah, thanks, I thought a hobbyhorse was some kind of actual horse, so it looked to me like he was just serious.




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