Listening to Christian Music as an atheist

Hello fellow seekers of uninhibited truth! My best friend Taylor wrote this fascinating post on the transition to listening to Christian music as an atheist. We’ve known each other since we were 14, and as good little Catholics we shared a great deal of religious music together. It’s hilarious looking back at the timid little creatures we were then in comparison to the outspoken SLUTs we are now. Taylor is a great writer, avowed atheist, cunning linguist and talented scientist who I am proud to have in my inner circle. I’m very grateful for this contribution on my little corner of the internet, and hope you all enjoy it too!

-Atheist Slut

Christian music, and more generally religious music, should be a part of any atheist’s playlist.

Did I get your attention?

When I was a diehard Christian, I was an avid fan of many Christian rock groups (Third Day, Jars of Clay, DC Talk, Matt Maher, Skillet). My radio was programmed to a few Christian stations (J103 in particular) and I could be found, on occasion, to be rocking out to some religious music. The songs were either inspiring, and would help me “feel closer to Jesus”, or they were moving and would bring about the guilt and shame that most self-professed sinners struggle with.

As I grew I started listening to the inspirational and moving music less. I shifted towards bands that I simply enjoyed and were probably frowned upon by the more stalwart Catholics. There were never any groups I listened to just to “spite the man”; I genuinely enjoyed the songs. But there were some bands I felt guilty for liking because their lyrics could be considered at best controversial and at worst blasphemous (Disturbed and Avenged Sevenfold come to mind).

When I finally came to the truth that I was an atheist, I found myself listening to some of my old Christian bands such as Red, Skillet, Thousand Foot Krutch, Switchfoot, Flyleaf, and Creed (don’t judge). I started questioning whether it was hypocritical of me to listen to these bands and if I was supporting something I disagreed with.

I came to the conclusion that it was good, and beneficial, for me to enjoy these groups music and I wanted to share some of my reasoning as to why.

Musicality

For me to enjoy any songs for any length of time, I have to enjoy the music. If it’s not working for me rhythmically or melodically, then I’m not going to listen to it.

Many of the songs by the groups I mentioned above hooked me on that level. I can’t help but rock out to songs like Hero, Breath Into Me, Welcome to the Masquerade, and Meant to Live. The guitar riffs, drum beats, and vocals combine to evoke whole body engagement. I genuinely enjoy listening to these songs.

That alone makes me want to listen to these bands. On a more technical level, many of these musicians are quite talented and I find enjoyment in listening to individual parts of the songs.

Lyrically

There are some religious songs that I connect with on a musical level, but I still have a hard time listening to. One songs that immediately comes to mind is Consuming Fire by Third Day. I used to love this song and felt a serious connection both musically and lyrically. Going back to it now, I can still rock out to the beat, but the words are too religious for my taste: “Yes our God, he is a consuming fire, he reaches inside and melts down this cold heart of stone”.  (Sounds painful.) There are other songs that have beautiful melody and singing, but the overt religiousness makes it difficult to get into.

There are plenty of bands, however, that sing without being explicit in their religiosity. Red, for example, does a great job of writing in a way that is enjoyable regardless of your religious affiliation. They might be “moved” or “influenced” by their god, but it’s not overt in their music. This sort of music I can get listen to and support. Of course, your level of comfort with the lyrics will vary.

Ethically

One of the great things about being an atheist is that you get to come to your own conclusion about what’s good for you. This includes what sounds you pipe into your ears. I debated for a while whether it was “right” for me to be listening to music that supports a delusion that I’m staunchly against. Would I be better off boycotting all religious music?

I came to the conclusion that it was OK for me to enjoy the music and even actively support some of those bands. One of the key insights behind this reasoning is the realization that, religiously motivated or not, these people were adding value to the world in their own way. Perhaps their views are different than mine, but that doesn’t mean they’re wrong and should be avoided. Engaging with the music, and possibly their fans, is a way for we freethinkers to open a dialogue and create a positive discourse. Completely shutting off the exchange of thought and culture would be harmful to positively evolving the consciousness of our world.

With all of that said…

It basically comes down to this: do what you feels comfortable for you. But make sure it’s a reasoned and thoughtful approach. I highly recommend not ignoring something just because it comes from a Christian group or has religious overtones. You might be surprised at what you find and their may be a deeper connection with the music than you think. Sure, you may believe these people are deluded, but music is still music. And who doesn’t love a little “Hallelujah Chorus” every now and again?

This article was written by Taylor Murphy, proud SLUT and best friend of the Atheist Slut. I’m also a scientist who loves to write, read, travel, and explore. Thank you for taking the time to read my work. Truly, it means the world to me. If you want to learn more about my work and life, check out my personal blog at www.tayloramurphy.com. My other blog, Humanist Growth, is where I discuss personal development, life, and travel from a secular humanist’s perspective. It will be launching in mid-2013 and I’d love it if you’d check it out. In the meantime, if you want to ask me anything or just say Hi, feel free to hit me up @tayloramurphy1 on Twitter or email me at taylor.a.murphy at vanderbilt.edu. I look forward to hearing from you!

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4 responses to “Listening to Christian Music as an atheist

  1. Nice post! I grew up listening to Christian music exclusively up until the time I was 17. Once, after I was an atheist I came across a Christian station that was playing a Rich Mullins song always loved. I felt silly belting out “oh god you are my god, and I will ever praise you” when I didn’t believe in god, but I figured I was alone in the car and didn’t care. That is part of the wonderful freedom in being atheist–I don’t have to worry that all the music I listen to or sing along to conforms to my beliefs.

    • It is such a great feeling not having to do stupid mental gymnastics to ensure something I want to listen to is “approved” or not. Inane and pointless restrictions are the purview of religion and I’m so glad to have moved beyond that senselessness. Thanks for your comment!

  2. Pingback: The Idol of Purity | The Atheist Slut·

  3. Pingback: Music for Atheists | The Atheist Slut·

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