Sunday, September 11, 2011

What songs do atheists sing?

I’ve been asked to create a choir specially for an inter-faith event.


There will be contributors from Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism and more. Plenty of songs to choose from. But what about atheists? Will they be represented, and what songs do they sing?

I’m not religious at all. I suppose that makes me an atheist.

But not a card-carrying atheist like Richard Dawkins. His promotion of his point of view is almost like a religion, yet it doesn’t – in his opinion – rely on any beliefs, just scientific theories and proofs.

In his view there is no faith involved. In fact he thinks that faith − belief that is not based on evidence − is one of the world’s great evils. So there is no place for atheists at an inter-faith event.

There will be humanists though (Richard Dawkins is the Vice President of the British Humanist Association). I guess their faith is a belief in human beings and humanity based on the evidence of how humans behave towards each other.

But what songs do they sing?

I’ve written before about the fact that (apart from birthday parties and football matches) people most commonly sing together at religious events – see  Is community singing dead? – weddings, Christmas, Passover, etc., even if they’re not particularly religious.

In common with many non-religious people I grew up singing church hymns at school and in the cub scouts. I’ve grown to love songs from many different spiritual traditions (see The Devil doesn’t always have the best songs) and one of my more popular workshops is called Sacred Songs to Soothe the Soul. In fact, the notion of a ‘choir’ is so associated with religious singing that I’ve often been asked Is all choral music religious?

I have collected songs from many different spiritual traditions over the years. Many of them have gorgeous melodies and harmonies which stir the soul (or whatever it is you believe in).

It’s inevitable that spiritual communities with their rituals, shared values, sense of community and ceremonies have built up repertoires of songs over time. But what of atheists? Do they have a ‘community’? What songs do they sing?

Answers on a postcard please – or leave a comment below. Thanks.


Chris Rowbury's website:

Chris Rowbury


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