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The Dallas-Plano Atheists Meetup Group Message Board › A bit of a rant

A bit of a rant

Matt B.
user 11413756
Fort Worth, TX
Post #: 2
I started writing this post in response to another thread, but it became so ego-centric that I'm giving it its own (in order to not be rude), plus after reading Hana's introduction, I was inspired to follow suit.

I'm not terribly active in this community yet (mostly because of my work schedule), but I've enjoyed meeting Mick, Jay, and Phil very much; it didn't take long for me to decide I was with people whose company I would want to continue to enjoy.

I'm a classical pianist, and believe it or not, there is a similar sort of externalization in my field (as in Hana's). Praying before concerts, externalizing wrong notes or mistakes (I literally heard my ex-wife tell her friend that she just wasn't blessed with the facility to play perfectly) to justify lack of practice discipline, giving away the credit for a good performance, or the even more sickening idea that god 'played through them to reach people'. It's a large part of the reason I left TCU before getting my degree. Thankfully, my teacher there (who incidentally won the Cliburn) was also an atheist and he understood; god talk made him visibly ill.

I was tossed out of a band I started as it began to become successful (after I had written half of our music) because I just happened to be the only non-christian member. Even in video games, my hobby, I've been told recently that I can't come back to my regular gaming session because I wouldn't let one of them give me the 'salvation talk'. You know, the one that starts thus: 'Hey man, I know this might seem really weird to approach you about, but I worry about you.' 'Worry? I'm doing well.' 'No, I mean, I worry about your soul.' *hemorrhage*

I run into similar quandaries as a teacher. Many students want to learn to play or sing certain religious music. I keep silent and teach it. To interject would be to diminish love for the music, I think, so I teach theory and musical principles sometimes through music even if it's religious (read: nauseating). Then again, certain music that exists within a religious context (I don't think of it as 'religious music', exactly) is worthy on its own merit. I play some of Olivier Messiaen's Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant-Jésus (Twenty Regards of the Infant Jesus), and the Verdi requiem, which specifically used the text for the requiem mass (Verdi was an atheist) is possibly the greatest requiem of all time. This includes any of the masses or cantatas of Bach, other requiems, etc. I think it was Dawkins who said something like "How great would the Mesozoic Symphony have been, had it been composed by Mozart or Beethoven?" Having to constantly separate music from its intended context is stressful and annoying.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that even if people don't give us the credit for saving a life, or teaching them a song, or helping guide them down a healthy path, we know damn well who was responsible, just like I know who's really responsible when it comes to my student's performances (them) and who gave them the tools to accomplish higher things, musically (me).

I've learned to find my own rewards in being a skeptic. Examining things, debunking things, the courage of my own convictions, and every once in a great rare while, being able to change someone's mind on something or educate someone who is open. Not in a condescending way, of course, but in a sharing ideas and enthusiasm sort of way. If I can convince someone that it's okay not to know, in fact, that it's better to openly not know the truth of something than to make an assumption based on a false proof or logic, or if I can show some new evidence to someone, I feel a tremendous reward; as if the sheer thanklessness I generally experience is made worthwhile when I can actually make a difference to the benefit of someone, through my own skepticism.

Plano, TX
Post #: 241
I feel similarly in certain aspects, differently in others.

I'm totally with you on the "pray to Gawd" before the game, the concert, etc. I mean if you're a church group or a small band and all known you're a believer ,then hell yeah, go for it if it makes you feel better. Do so in a large group (read orchestra-size) that is not associated with a church, then no. Do so silently.

"Gawd played through me" or "Gawd was in control" then tack on "to reach others" and I'm either laughing so hard I puke or just puke depending on my mood. Why does Gawd need a starship? Or you to "reach" me? I thought he has absolute power. Is it a test for you? Something to give you satisfaction as a reward for being such a sucker? Maybe it's a sin allowance. I saved you so I can sin tomorrow a little. Anyway, we all know that makes no sense.

Where I differ is that I'm okay with Gawd as inspiration for music. Even when the words come straight from the Bible I guess I don't care so much. I mean take Mozart's Laudate Dominum (­) from Vesperae Solennes de Confessore (K339) . How can you listen and not feel that? When I hear it it gives me goosebumps continually ,and waves of them from my back outwards. The only time I have seen it live with Emma Kirkby as the soloist it left me slowly weeping with red eyes, wet cheeks, and a runny nose. And now listening to even a recording of it makes me think of that performance and I am reduced to a blubbering teary eyed child-like state. But it's the opening words to Palms 116 -- that's religious. It's not the words, it's the music. I don't even care it is used in Catholic communion. It is an emotional trip for me every time I hear it (I'm not the only one: http://best.mozart-so...­.

Believe me it's one of the most confusing things to me ever. Palsms 116 says everybody worship God, all nations, because he's chosen not to kill us all (he has bestowed his mercy upon us). I mean what a horrible message. But when I start listening to the song I generally listen to it 10 times in a row, reduced to pure emotional weeping the whole time. How can I find so much joy in something so highly religious ? The reason is, it's utterly beautiful. And it is a human work made by a mortal and soulless man and it lives only in me when I listen to it. No one can have the same experience as me listening to it because they are not me -- it might be similar but it is not mine. A gift from him to me from over 200 hundreds of years ago. It is the song's humanity that moves me. So to me it's okay belief in Gawd inspired it.

I think it's important to remember that religion isn't necessarily bad. If it is people's inspiration and source of happiness that's fine. Even if they do believe in some unreal being. It gets bad when it is forced on other people, indoctrinated into children by force or threat, used as a reason for murdering others, or used to make bad decisions to foist on others in general, that it is bad. If it were personal, not used as a means to judge others, and stayed that way I would have no trouble with it at all.

user 11526159
Dallas, TX
Post #: 2
Good points made by both of you. I can understand the awkwardness of singing religious music. But the truth is that some of the greatest pieces ever written were religious. Even if many of those works were not truly inspired by Gawd, they were inspired by a belief in Gawd by the composer. That, in my opinion, should be acknowledged to gain a fuller understanding of them, whether one agrees with that belief or not.

As for performing them as a non-believer, perhaps the words could be viewed as more of a collection of consonants and vowels, rather than heartfelt utterances. I'm not so sure that it matters if one agrees with the text in order to perform them well. After all, actors assume roles very different from themselves all the time.
A former member
Post #: 11
You are all stating feelings and thoughts I am so familiar with as I am 67 and have been atheist/agnostic since my junior high years when I first started thinking things through.

Having lived most of my years in the bible belt among family and friends who regularly attend church, I have often had to be very stoic, silent and at times extremely frustrated.

Early on I trained as a concert pianist and have a deep love of music of all kinds. Seems to me that inspiration is its own entity. It is comforting to me to separate it from its interpretation by those who are expressing it. Being the imperfect creatures that we are, we each come up with our own reasons for everything or as in my case, I've still not found a reason for inspiration. I just enjoy it.
user 13274513
Richardson, TX
Post #: 3
I totally know what u mean...but u guys tend to forget something...and maybe it will help ur situ if u think of it this way:
until the 20th century there was NO way to get ANY recognition for any musician if they did not "go" with the "church" stuff....the church, and here i mean the Vatican was the biggest and the strongest on our planet, still is. Do u think that we would be able to hear Verdi, Vivaldi, Chaykovsky...etc these days, if they would have NOT conformed to those days demands of writing religious pieces?!
LOL they would have been BURNED!
and yes, religion IS WRONG!...its a well thought out business, to control MASSES of people,
(exploiting the human fear of death) on a large scale, its the best and the longest lasting business/scam of this planet.
I have been in many churches, all over the world, for the architecture (my 7th grade teachers influence) LOL
I have been in the vatican x2...and i was always amazed of all the wealth what even just the buildings required. in the vatican i took pictures, even tho its not allowed :) the 2nd time they escorted me out with those cute swuisse guards LOLOLOL cuz i did not stop taking pictures after a booming voice from the ceiling told me not to :)))
they wont let you keep the film, but i put it into my jeans, and dared the dude to take it out LOLOL
i was 24, working in rome as a model for 6 month so i was talking italian, he did not know i speak german 2, and i understand him to say to the other guy, that he "really would like to get that film out, some other time"
so much about being "godly"

so, ALL that wealth they have just in there!!!
and 30.000 child dies EVERY 24 hours!!! of hunger on this planet!!!
...and THEY are talking to me about helping??!!! fuck em!

we have an outlet here and now, where we can rant and rave about it, and we can say it out loud, that
" yes, I am atheist, i dont believe in any kind of "santajesus" crap!"
but imagine that a 100 and plus years ago! no one could do they went on, and wrote all those pieces, what takes us to pieces, and with the last note put us back together so, that you float for the rest of the day :)

unfortunately we will never know, if any, or most of them ware atheists...the all had to keep it to them self's, but i do listen to they music with the thought that most likely many of them knew that the church was bullshit...
A former member
Post #: 1

I've got no introduction of my own, but something you said struck a chord with me.. pun intended.

==If I can convince someone that it's okay not to know, in fact, that it's better to openly not know the truth of something than to make an assumption based on a false proof or logic, or if I can show some new evidence to someone, I feel a tremendous reward; as if the sheer thanklessness I generally experience is made worthwhile when I can actually make a difference to the benefit of someone, through my own skepticism.==

Believers never seem to acknowledge the endeavors, successes, and failures of humans. It's always the deity's fault. They never really have to stop and appreciate what effort was put in on their behalf, or how much they might deserve a pat on the back for their hard work. Perhaps not all of them are this way, but the one's I have met are. That veneer of fluffy white niceness is shielding them from having to ... you know... be human. It's no wonder they wear their religion like a favored addiction.
user 13274513
Richardson, TX
Post #: 4

in europe chrismass, is on dec. 24 th...the lil jesus sends angels who sets up ur tree with presents under it on the evening of 24th, and u get the presents on that evening.
on the 25th family go to visit each pick up they present LOLOL (good retail business)

on the 5th! of dec. comes the Mikulás ( saint Nicolaus) and the krampusz ( devils minions) JUST for the kids, kids have to shine they shoes/boots, and put them into the window..if u ware a good kid, u get sweets in ur boots ( from the mikulash), and if u ware bad u get lil pieces of a broom (from the krompus)...LOLOL
its just for the kids.

saint nikolaus was a priest in a small italian village, and "collected" orphan kids in his church ...
(another pedo? most likely)
this dude was a REAL person, and after he died they gave him "sainthood"
im not sure, if dec. 5th is the day he died, or born, but its a big thing in europe, not just in hungary.

I met many who did seriously bad things, then a bit later they asked me what church i am going to...
r they fucking serious?!
do they really think, that "they god" can see them ONLY inside they church?!
they just dont belive in that shit either, just they are to much of a coward to admit it...?!
Matt B.
user 11413756
Fort Worth, TX
Post #: 3

I certainly know what it's like to be reduced to a blubbering mess because of music, which happens to me with Mahler (whose faith was tremendously ambiguous, and a matter of convenience) and Beethoven (the 9th symphony of his being possibly the most humanist work ever written. It was originally created as the "Ode to Freedom", not Joy, and was changed for political reasons). I doubt though, knowing Mozart, that his Vesperae Solennes de Contessore was a work inspired by god. He wrote it immediately after the trip to Paris during which his mother died, and under the commission of the archbishop (after which he was dismissed from his service). Remember, this is the same guy who brought us divinely inspired work such as "Leck mich im Arsch" (Lick my ass), a canon which can be found here:­ and "Leck mir den Arsch fein recht schön sauber", or "Lick my ass nice and clean". Mozart did believe in a higher power, but it was his views on creation and art that gave him life. Hell, so did Newton (though his was more of a statement that it would be absurd 'not' to believe).

I'm also delighted by works such as the Symphony of Psalms, by Stravinsky. Many scholars insist that is was a direct expression of honest faith, but a study of the score proves otherwise. He bases many of his motives on intervalic relationships that would have gotten him excommunicated by the early church for their dissonance, and he actually ends the piece by defacing (splitting) the word of god, musically. During the final three chords, upon which is sung the word "Dominum", he instructs the chorus to take a large breath in the middle of the word. Practically, there is no reason, so it is quite a conclusive statement, I think, about his true religious feelings. His final "Praise God" actually sounds like "Laudate Do-*breath*-minum." The movement can be found in part here:­

I agree with your final statement, though, about religion not necessarily being bad. Neil Degrasse also agrees. His question was, if they took images of his brain as he contemplated the universe in awe and wonder, and compared it to a religious person as they contemplated god, would they appear to be the same? Would the same things actually be going on? He goes on to say that, if so, he would never EVER wish for that to be taken away from them.

I think Glenna said it best: "Inspiration is its own entity." I could expound by saying that it needs no reason or justification, but it always has a catalyst. Works of art are also inspiration that take shape and form THROUGH reason. One could argue that, if one believes that religion inhibits reason, it also inhibits art. I think though, that in the minds of the great creators and composers, the religion ceased to matter completely when cast in the shadow of artistic creation, and thus did not inhibit it.

Mr. Z,

I appreciate you taking the time to reply to me! Regarding what you said, I would expand to say that I think it takes more humility to acknowledge and respect oneself and one's own work than to pass either off onto a god. I think more than religion causes arrogance, people use religion to justify their own. It's the appearance of humility that this presents that is doubly deadly. Where someone would say, 'what a humble person, he gives all credit to god', I would replace the word 'humble' with 'arrogant fuck'. God addiction, as you aptly put it, also seems like an externalized form of narcissism to me.
user 11526159
Dallas, TX
Post #: 3
Just want to share something I observed today while subbing for a music teacher in RISD. During one of my breaks, I happened to flip through the text of her Orff-Schulwerk Level I training, as it was sitting on her desk. (Orff-Schulwerk is this amazing comprehensive process of teaching music to kids.) Each trainer enjoys freedom to choose songs to illustrate the musical concepts that are to be presented. Most instructors use folk songs or nursery rhymes, as did mine when I went through the training. Apparently, though, this instructor felt that it would be a good idea to squeeze several overtly Christian hymns into her course. These training sessions, mind you, are predominantly attended by public school teachers. I found it pretty nauseating, considering there is no compelling reason to have to use religious music in such a context. Perhaps that instructor's regular gig is at a religious private school, but still, it's not like it's a music history course in which one would have to present works such as Handel's Messiah in order to cover the Baroque and Classical periods. In this case, there were an infinite number of secular pieces from which to choose!

By the way, on another note, I've reconsidered my earlier comments. As far as I know, I think it's impossible to know whether the religious works of Bach, Mozart, etc. were inspired by a genuine religious belief. After all, if one wanted to be employed selling choral works back then, they pretty much were limited to the commission of the church. It's very possible that these guys were doubters. On the other hand, I personally know some musical geniuses who hold the most whacked-out fundamentalist religious beliefs. (One in particular lost his professorship at UNT for proselytizing to his students during lessons. An example of compartmentalized brilliance.) Unless some personal diaries are found, I think it's probably conjecture as to "whose side" they were on.

Personally, I just appreciate the genius and the craftsmanship of these works, regardless of lyrics or motivation. Having said that though, I must admit that I don't feel very comfortable singing them, regardless of how much I tell myself that they're just a bunch of words.

A former member
Post #: 3
I find it interesting to consider all that we know now of the human mind and how it works and look back in history toward geniuses. Today, it's almost cliche that people who border on genius are also bordering on what we can loosely call madness. When the human mind becomes so preoccupied and focused on a single task, the end result is generally not a well rounded human mind.

To hear and play and write technically brilliant music one must necessarily be seeing/hearing the world differently from the rest of 'us' mortals. To opine that they may have held whacky views about religion is clearly not stretching the imagination. To say the church had near infinite influence on society at the time is not stretching the truth either. I find it reasonable to assume that the reality is that their beliefs were somewhere in the middle rather than on the extremes. Their focus was art/music not theologyand they probably went with the flow, occassionally visiting the edges of the river as many do. We do not stop to consider the musical tastes and talents of Martin Luther yet here we discuss the theological nuances of great musicians and artists. Huh?

That the church supported them tells us they were at least amenable and knew when to keep their mouths shut. On the other hand, being whacked out addicted to god stuff was not the same as it is to day AND was seen as normal. Do you go to work wearing bright pink and yellow leotards? No, you dress 'normal' and there is no questioning or need of it. It's most likely that these great artists (aside from their known idiosyncracies) simply went along with 'normal' in their society. Well, that's my tuppence.
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