The Raving Theist

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God Squad Review CLXXIV (Music)

July 3, 2006 | 17 Comments

Concerned that “flat note after flat note” issues from the fingers of his church’s organist, a Squad reader asks whether it’s more important to be supportive of the musician or improve attendance with a more talented replacement. The Squad opines that bad music is a “disservice to the spiritual excellence” of the church and recommends the latter option, while noting that it could be a traumatic and divisive event for the congregation.

Would the answer differ for an atheist or humanist organization that provided entertainment at its meetings? First, rest assured that there is a body of relevant music. Dan Barker, a preacher-turned-atheist who is co-president of the Freedom for Religion Foundation, is a prolific songwriter and composer. His five albums — “Beware of Dogma,” “Friendly Neighborhood Atheist,” “Freethought Then and Now,” “My Thoughts are Free,” and “Reason’s Greetings” — are available at FFRF’s online shop. Songs include “Battle of Church and State,” Stay Away Pope Polka,” “You Can’t Win With Original Sin,” “Nothing Fails Like Prayer,” “FFRF,” “Just Say ‘NO’ to Religion,” “Days of the Theocracy,” “Smarter Than You,” and “No Hurry to Die.”

Dawn Eden apparently declined to do the liner notes, but from the titles and available audio clips I surmise that the lyrics to these tunes are meant to be more didactic than uplifting. Battle contains the entire religion clause (establishment and free exercise) to the First Amendment. The title song to Friendly Neighborhood Atheist combats a canard (“I don’t have any horns/If you care to inspect me/But don’t expect me/To think just like you”). When performed, musicianship would likely be subordinate to message-delivery.


17 Responses to “God Squad Review CLXXIV (Music)”

  1. allonym
    July 3rd, 2006 @ 6:15 pm

    God Squad Review indeed. Way to stick it to them–errm, uh…us?

    You know, even though I never agreed with you on the whole abortion thing, I at least knew you were on my side in the fight against religious idiocracy; the Raving Atheist, champion of logic and reason. Now I can’t even tell where you’re pointing your gun!

  2. Tenspace
    July 3rd, 2006 @ 6:24 pm

    Wow, the riveting tale of hardship and sacrifice, a steamy, no punches pulled expose of church organists!

    I would rather see you tackle the second answer in the GS’ article: You are not Jewish because … you are not Jewish! Now, as for Mormons, they are Christians. The “extra” beliefs of different Christian denominations do not in any way alter the core affirmation of the divinity and atoning power of Jesus as the Christ.

    ::sniff:: you are going soft.

  3. June
    July 3rd, 2006 @ 7:48 pm

    RA, without saying anything bad about JC, you could still have ranted about “How Religious Devotion Trivializes American Music”. Even I could write a better piece about the caterwauling callrd church music, and how horrible it must sound to divine ears. How stupid a repetitive plinky-plink Bach fugue must sound to God, who hears the Music of the Spheres. But, apparently, you have put your critical judgment out to pasture along with your rationality.

  4. Kreme
    July 3rd, 2006 @ 9:27 pm

    How stupid a reptitive Goddy God God reference sounds to rational thinkers, but what else can one do but humor the absence of critical thinking in such verbage? I mean, really, Music of the Spheres? That’s not just fiction; it’s superfiction- another level of emotional absurdity.

  5. Gathercole
    July 3rd, 2006 @ 9:42 pm

    I don’t know why you all say RA’s undergoing a conversion. He’s worshipping the same god he always has: attention.

  6. Some Guy
    July 3rd, 2006 @ 10:54 pm

    I’m glad you’re back to your old self.

  7. Jason
    July 4th, 2006 @ 1:46 am


  8. darwinfish
    July 4th, 2006 @ 5:11 am

    RA you might have to change your tag now as, “An Atheistic Examination of the Culture of Belief: How Religious Devotion Trivializes American Law and Politics”, might offend some christians! (as well as the rest of us since it’s now more or less a lie)

    I suggest “polite musings on topics few people care about” for a replacement.

  9. Kreme
    July 4th, 2006 @ 5:48 am

    Life has it’s ruts whether you’re theist, or atheist. I say RA, just keep at it doing whatever you think is most fitting for you. As always we’ll keep pushing the discussion on the topics, whatever they may be, despite your chosen ‘ism’.

  10. Erik
    July 4th, 2006 @ 8:43 am

    Well, here’s a solution to the Squad’s problem: make the bad church musician an atheist. That’s what they did with Dan Barker, who used to write crummy religious songs. If you’re going to focus your criticism on someone, RA, perhaps it shouldn’t be a person who used to do all that really silly stuff for churches, too.

    There have been masterpieces of music, and art for that matter, that were inspired by religious beliefs. So what? Does that make the beliefs any more or less true?

  11. Stella
    July 4th, 2006 @ 9:45 am

    Well, if it’s Dan Barker’s music being played–or a similar style–then the point the God Squad makes doesn’t apply. Their point is that it’s easier to be uplifted by good music than bad music. If the music at atheistic gatherings were aimed principally at uplifting atheists (a song about the glory of reason perhaps, or the possibility to be good without believing in God) then the quality of the musician would be more important because the point of the song is the mood it gets the listener into.

    On the other hand, I doubt God really cares whether a church pianist is in tune. He is no respecter of persons, and even the worst singer in the world should feel free to sing praises. It does matter to the congregation–beautiful music makes it easier to feel the Spirit.

  12. June
    July 4th, 2006 @ 10:43 am

    “beautiful music makes it easier to feel the Spirit.”

    And that’s the real point of religious belief, isn’t it?
    That there is really no “Spirit” except the illusions we can create with repetitive chanting, burning incense, blood rituals, mysterious sacraments, ancient traditions, and so on.

  13. TheSnake
    July 4th, 2006 @ 12:02 pm

    On average, I’d think that atheist conventions would be best served with atheistic music, e.g. music without any religious connotations, which is what most music is anyways.
    Although this does make me smile:“>”>

  14. Thorngod
    July 4th, 2006 @ 12:26 pm

    Thanks, Snake. Very entertaining.

  15. Some Guy
    July 4th, 2006 @ 1:19 pm

    Do you think the God’s decision is a little utilitarian?

  16. Thorngod
    July 5th, 2006 @ 1:49 am

    Music…. Hmmm. Offhand I can think of only two people (of the people I’m closely acquainted with) who may actually prefer the music of the heavenly spheres to the sex-driven themes of pop, blues, hiphop, rap (if that’s “music”), rock, opera and other genres. It’s a fact I took note of decades back, and a very revealing one, I would argue. I think the vast majority of “Christians” are imposters, or else they’re incredibly blind to just what’s at stake. How can they fail to grasp the nothing of this mundane world as compared to eternal bliss? If I were a “believer” I would have to measure every act and thought I allowed myself against my most fervently-measured judgment of the will of God. How can any true believer do less? In every instant of your existence, my faithing friend, your soul is at risk of eternal flames. And you are writhing instead–while you may–to the sultry sounds of Elvis and Sinatra!

  17. Thorngod
    July 6th, 2006 @ 12:24 am

    Hmmm. I posted that bit just above about 24 hours ago. I guess the song has ended–though the malody lingers on!

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