Atheist music

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The British atheist Sanderson Jones is a founder of the Sunday Assembly atheist church movement.[1] Atheist churches play some atheistic music. The music is not exclusively atheistic.[2]

Atheist music is music that has been written to express atheist ideology.

Despite atheism existing for thousands of years and predating Christianity, there is a small proportion of music compared to religious music. For example, Wikipedia, which was founded by an atheist and agnostic, has no article on "Atheist music", but Wikipedia does have an article on Christian music.

The comedian Steve Martin wrote a satirical song entitled "“Atheists Don't Have No Songs”.[3]

There are no atheist radio stations dedicated to playing atheist songs. In addition, although there are full-time Christian musicians who support themselves by playing for churches (or other Christian audiences) and through the sales of their music, there are no full-time atheist musicians who devote themselves to playing atheist music.

During the Christmas season many businesses play Christmas music and there is a large collection of Christmas songs. Businesses in the Western World rarely have atheist music playing in their establishments and when it does occur it is purely unplanned.

Relatively low amount of atheist songs and the uninspiring nature of atheism

The primary reason why there is a small amount of atheist songs relative to Christian/religious songs is due to the uninspiring nature of atheism (see: Atheism and inspiration and Atheism and apathy).

See also: Low amount of quality atheist art: Atheism is an uninspiring and negative concept

John Lennon's song Imagine

John Lennon in s 1965 interview said: "If you say you don't believe in God, everybody assumes you're antireligious, and you probably think that's what we mean by that. We're not quite sure 'what' we are, but I know that we're more agnostic than atheistic."[4]

Lennon's song Imagine has been dubbed the "atheist anthem".[5][6]

Bad Religion

Bad Religion is an American American punk rock band that formed in Los Angeles, California, in 1979. Their songs cover topics such as pro-atheism songs, criticism of religion and politics.

Richard Dawkins sings Christmas carols. Religious leaders do not sing atheist songs

Richard Dawkins
Richard Dawkins sings traditional Christmas carols each Christmas season.[7]

See also: Atheism and Christmas

The Daily Mail declared about the new atheist Richard Dawkins:

Scientist and atheist Richard Dawkins has admitted he does celebrate Christmas - and enjoys singing traditional Christmas carols each festive season.

The writer and evolutionary biologist told singer Jarvis Cocker that he happily wishes everyone a Merry Christmas - and used to have a tree when his daughter was younger.[8]

Dawkins wrote at the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science website:

Nor do I shy aware from singing the familiar and much loved Christmas songs that I sang for years in choir or at home. Silent Night still can bring a tear to my eye because it recalls memories of childhood.[9]

Christian leaders or the leaders of other theistic religions do not sing the relatively few atheist songs which exist.

Atheist churches play some atheistic music. The music is not exclusively atheistic

Although atheist churches are few in number. Atheist churches employ some atheist music, but the songs are not exclusively atheistic in nature.[10]

Stevie Wonder is a Baptist who got his start in music at the Whitestone Baptist Church in Detroit.[11] Atheism is not prevalent in African-American community. See: Western atheism and race

The journalist Kimberly Winston reported in the Huffington Post:

At London’s Sunday Assembly, which attracts as many as 300 people and frequently turns people away at the door, the music has included songs by Queen and Stevie Wonder. At Houston Oasis, a community of nonbelievers established last fall, there are covers of popular songs, rewritten renditions of old songs and original music as well.

“We say we are a community grounded in reason, and music is a part of that,” said Mike Aus, Houston Oasis’ founder, leader and a former Lutheran pastor. “The music we include is intended to inspire and improve your life somehow.”

A recent Houston Oasis gathering that drew 80 people featured the singing of Smythe and Taylor, a Texas-based award-winning musical duo who performed John Waite’s “Missing You,” James Taylor’s “The Frozen Man” and their own “Heaven’s Not the Great Beyond,” about an encounter with a homeless man who may — or may not — be Jesus.[12]

Christian comedian Tim Hawkins on atheist songs being played at atheist churches

The Christian musician and comedian Tim Hawkins pokes fun at the concepts of atheist songs being played at atheist churches and atheist kids song[13]

Christian quotes about music contrasted with atheist activists

C. S. Lewis, photographed in 1947.

The Protestant Reformation leader Martin Luther declared, "Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world."

Jonathan Edwards wrote: "The best, most beautiful, and most perfect way that we have of expressing a sweet concord of mind to each other is by music."

Johann Sebastian Bach indicated: "I play the notes as they are written, but it is God who makes the music.”

The ex-atheist C.S. Lewis wrote: "The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing […] For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”

The English writer and poet Walter Savage Landor wrote: ""Music is God's gift to man, the only art of Heaven given to earth, the only art of earth we take to Heaven.”

As noted above, on the whole, throughout history atheists have not shown the same degree of appreciation of music. In terms of propagating atheism, atheist activists have been far more interested in politics (see: Atheism and politics). According to the University of Cambridge, historically, the "most notable spread of atheism was achieved through the success of the 1917 Russian Revolution, which brought the Marxist-Leninists to power."[14] See also: Atheism and communism and Secular left

No tradition of atheist choirs and bands singing atheist songs in history

Watoto Children's Choir from Kampala, Uganda.

The atheist population does not have a tradition of children's choirs singing atheist songs.

See also: Atheism and loneliness and Atheism and social skills and Atheist factions

Dr. J. Gordon Melton said about the atheist movement (organized atheism) that atheism is not a movement which tends to create community, but in the last few years there has been some growth of organized atheism.[15] See also: Atheism and loneliness and Atheist factions

Due to the historic lack of community within the atheist population compared to other groups and the uninspiring nature of atheism, there have been no tradition of atheist choirs singing atheist songs. In addition, there is no traditional of atheist bands who sing atheist songs.

Compared to religious cultures where an extended family and a sense of community often exists, secular countries are often lonelier societies. In addition, numerous studies and other data indicate that atheists often have lower emotional intelligence and lower social skills (see: Atheism and emotional intelligence and Atheism and social skills).

In an essay entitled How the Atheist Movement Failed Me, an atheist woman noted that participation in the atheist community is often expensive due to the cost of attending atheist conferences and even local atheist meetings in restaurants and bars challenged her modest budget.[16] As a result of the challenges that atheists commonly have in terms of socializing in person, many atheists turn to the internet in terms of communicating with other atheists.[17] Often internet communication between atheists turns acrimonious and contentious (see: Atheist factions).

Shortage of successful secular institutions and in order to create atheist choirs and bands

The atheist Guy Stagg wrote in The Telegraph:

It shows that, although secularists have realised that they cannot simply be defined by opposition to religion, nevertheless they have little to offer in its place. Crucially the secular tradition has no successful institutions to preserve and spread its principles.

This is something that few secularists admit: atheism is quite lonely. Not just existentially, but socially as well. Secularism does not offer the sense of fellowship you find in religion. Watching old Christopher Hitchens debates on YouTube with a like-minded sceptic is entertaining, but I doubt it's as nourishing as Sunday Mass.[18]

Spitting Image satire: Atheist Tabernacle Choir

Spitting Image is a British satirical puppet show. Spitting Image has a satirical video which features the Atheist Tabernacle Choir.[19]

Atheist Dan Barker still receives royalties from his popular Christian children songs. His atheist music is not widely heard

The Freedom From Religion Foundation reports about atheist Dan Barker who is a co-founder of their organization:

For more than two decades, Dan was accompanist, arranger, and record producer for Manuel Bonilla, the leading Christian singer in the Spanish-speaking world. He accompanied on the piano such Christian personalities as Pat Boone, Jimmy Roberts (of the Lawrence Welk Show), and gospel songwriter Audrey Meier, and was a regular guest on Southern California’s “Praise The Lord” TV show (Spanish). One of Dan’s Christian songs, “There Is One,” was performed by Rev. Robert Schuller’s television choir on the “Hour of Power” broadcast. To this day, he receives royalties from his popular children’s Christian musicals, “Mary Had a Little Lamb” (1977), and “His Fleece Was White As Snow” (1978), both published by Manna Music and performed in many countries.[20]

Barker has also written atheist music. In total, he has produced 2 CDs of atheist songs.[21] Given the low market demand for atheist music around the world, the Freedom From Religion Foundation has not reported that Barker's music has achieved widespread appeal.

In 2007, Chuck Norris wrote about internet atheism:"YouTube, the most popular video site on the Net for young people, is one of their primary avenues for passing off their secularist propaganda."[22] A few atheists have hundreds of thousands of YouTube subscribers. As of 3/17/2016, the most popular YouTube video which features Barker's song "Nothing fails like prayer" has less than 10,000 views despite being uploaded to YouTube four years ago.[23]

Atheist funeral songs

See also: Atheist funerals

Steve Major wrote at the American Humanist Association about atheist funeral songs:

Depending on how stringent ones standards are that their music not contain any references to heaven, Jesus, God, or angels, there aren’t a lot of choices left for songs that are still appropriate in both tone and content; at that point most sad songs tend to be about the end of romantic relationships...[24]

Atheism and Hip Hop music

See also: Atheism and hip hop music

The Hip Hop artist Talib Kwelli was an atheist during a portion of this teen years, but he became an ex-atheist before he reached 20 years old.[25]

According to the American Humanist Association:

It may seem a bit odd, then, that so many major hip-hop artists ...are not only deeply religious but produce music that includes overt tributes to their own faith.

Consider Kanye West, whose new album Yeezus has been the year’s most anticipated release. Aside from the blatantly religious (and ostentatious) title, the record is littered with references to a Christian god. This should be unsurprising for a man who won a Grammy for the song “Jesus Walks” in 2004, but to consider the size and scope of not only West’s audience but also his critical devotion, it’s staggering that in a country of ever-deepening religious skepticism an album as blatantly Christian as Yeezus would be an almost guaranteed best-seller.

But what’s most troubling for the non-believing listeners isn’t the album’s religious content. What’s most troubling is that the religious content is so common in hip-hop that it’s not even mentioned.

So many popular rap artists are vocally religious that it’s become not just acceptable, it’s become the norm... Today, it’s rarer to find a rapper who doesn’t make hay of their faith than to find one who does.

This isn’t to say that religion is the only element that’s frustrating for humanist rap fans. There are prominent atheist rap artists whose content is just as uncomfortable, most notably the controversial LA collective Odd Future, a group of young men who promote atheism but use Satanic imagery on their album covers and rap about rape, murder, and drugs to the point that it’s cartoonish.

Humanists need a place in the hip-hop community.[26]

Lack of atheistic music within the disco music genre

See also: Atheism and disco music and Atheism and dance

Women at the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education, Mexico City where a disco event was held.

Atheism is unpopular among Latinos and a significant majority of atheists are men (see: Western atheism and race and Atheism and women).

Unlike various religious traditions, atheism has no tradition of dance (See: Atheism and dance). No atheist song was ever popular with the disco music genre and no atheist song was ever popular among atheists which incorporated a disco music style.

In addition, disco music is a genre of dance music that contains of elements of soul, funk, pop, and salsa. Atheism has never been popular within the African-American community nor has it been popular among Latinos (See: Western atheism and race). As far as pop, atheism has never been broadly popular among Americans (see: Views on atheists) and pop music often incorporates elements of music popular among urban, ethnic communities.

Additionally, disco music often deals with relations between men and women and atheism has a significantly majority of men (see: Atheism and women).

Furthermore, disco music was frequently upbeat and atheism is not commonly seen as being upbeat - particularly in theistic countries (See: Hopelessness of atheism and Atheism and depression).

Within gospel music, one of the most popular songs which incorporated a disco music style was Tremaine Hawkins' gospel song Fall Down.[27]

ABBA and Swedish secular leftists antipathy

The most successful Euro disco group was ABBA.

Although the Swedish group ABBA did not incorporate atheistic themes within their music, Björn Ulvaeus is now an outspoken advocate of "godlessness".[28]

In Sweden most leftists are secular leftists. The Wall Street Journal states concerning leftists and ABBA's music: "For leftists in Sweden in the seventies we became the Antichrist,” Ulvaeus recalls. He adds that the group was accused of “being commercial and shallow.”[29]

Propagation of religions/worldviews via music, art and culture

See also: Atheism and apathy

Music, art and culture is often employed as means of evangelism and/or serve as an means of introduction to a religion/worldview.

According Pew Research:

In the 2014 Religious Landscape Study, self-identified atheists were asked how often they share their views on God and religion with religious people. Only about one-in-ten atheists (9%) say they do at least weekly, while roughly two-thirds (65%) say they seldom or never discuss their views on religion with religious people. By comparison, 26% of those who have a religious affiliation share their views at least once a week with those who have other beliefs; 43% say they seldom or never do.[30]

Most atheists are apathetic about the spread of atheism in terms of their own individual efforts (see: Atheism and apathy). At the present time, global atheism is shrinking in terms of its world percentage of adherents (See also: Desecularization).

See also

Notes

  1. Atheist Church Split: Sunday Assembly And Godless Revival's 'Denominational Chasm', Huffington Post, 2014
  2. ‘Atheist Churches’ Embrace Sunday-Morning Music by Kimberly Winston, Huffington Post
  3. Steve Martin - Atheists Don't Have No Songs (Live on Letterman 03-16-2011)
  4. The Beatles Image and Music by Michael R. Frontani, page 99[1]
  5. Eyre, Hermione (1 November 2006). "Atheists should be louder and prouder". The Independent. Retrieved 23 March 2014.
  6. Doughty, Chris (28 July 2009). "Kumbaya replaced by John Lennon's Imagine at atheist summer camp for kids". Daily Mail (London). Retrieved 30 October 2011.
  7. Why I celebrate Christmas, by the world's most famous atheist, The Daily Mail]
  8. Why I celebrate Christmas, by the world's most famous atheist, The Daily Mail
  9. A very atheist Christmas by Richard Dawkins
  10. ‘Atheist Churches’ Embrace Sunday-Morning Music by Kimberly Winston, Huffington Post
  11. *Stevie Wonder surprises Minneapolis Baptist church
  12. ‘Atheist Churches’ Embrace Sunday-Morning Music by Kimberly Winston, Huffington Post
  13. Tim Hawkins - Atheist Kids' Songs
  14. "Investigating atheism: Marxism". University of Cambridge (2008). Retrieved on July 17, 2014. “The most notable spread of atheism was achieved through the success of the 1917 Russian Revolution, which brought the Marxist-Leninists to power. For the first time in history, atheism thus became the official ideology of a state.”
  15. Baylor ISR- J. Gordon Melton - End of Religion? (May 5, 2015)
  16. Amanda (August 10, 2012). "How the atheist movement failed me–part 1: cost". Friendly Atheist blog. Retrieved on September 9, 2014.
  17. Norris, Chuck (May 21, 2007). "How to outlaw Christianity (steps 2 & 3)". WorldNetDaily. Retrieved on September 9, 2014. See Chuck Norris.
  18. Secularists on Thought for the Day will expose the loneliness of atheism, Guy Stagg, The Telegraph, Last updated: April 3rd, 2012
  19. Spitting Image - Atheist Choir
  20. Dan Barker - Minister turned atheist -bio
  21. Friendly Neighborhood Atheist 2 CD Album
  22. http://www.wnd.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=55789
  23. Nothing Fails Like Prayer, Dan Barker
  24. Music Selections for a Humanist Funeral by Steve Major
  25. That One Time When I Was Atheist, and The Influence of Malcolm X
  26. The Religiosity of Kanye West’s New Album, Yeezus (Part One of “Humanism and Hip Hop”)
  27. Tremaine Hawkins - Fall Down
  28. ABBA Founder: Godlessness Makes Sweden’s Pop Music Great, Wall Street Journal
  29. ABBA Founder: Godlessness Makes Sweden’s Pop Music Great, Wall Street Journal
  30. 7 facts about atheists, Pew Forum