by guest blogger, BroKen
I hope another letter so soon doesn't offend you but some other thoughts occurred to me after I finished the letter last week. You remember that I asked, Where are the atheist soup kitchens, universities, or hospitals? I said that atheists don't have a unifying principle that propels them to such good works.
I hope I was clear that I appreciate the good works that you do. But, of course, a cohesive group is much more powerful than individuals. If there is something in atheism that holds diverse people together to achieve a common good, I don't see it. Do you?
Then I thought of a song by comedian Steve Martin and his bluegrass band, The Steep Canyon Rangers. Martin jokes that the entire atheist hymnal consists of this one tune, Atheists Don't Have No Songs.
Here are a few lines:
Christians have their hymns and pages.
Hava Nagila's for the Jews.
Baptists have their Rock of Ages.
Atheists just sing the blues.
Some folks sing a Bach cantata.
Lutherans get Christmas trees.
Atheist songs add up to nada.
But they do have Sundays free.
I'm tempted to say that Steve Martin has stumbled upon a profound truth, but he is a pretty sharp guy. I suspect he knows the depth of what he sings because that is the source of his humor.
So, my question now is, Where is the atheist art? Or, to put it another way, Are free Sundays worth the loss of Bach cantatas?
I don't know anything about Martin's faith or lack thereof. It is possible to take the song as meaning that atheists enjoy all music, whether Bach or the blues, and therefore “don't need no” songs of their own. Fair enough. But why don't they make their own? Why is the best art created by people who express the joy of giving themselves to something higher than themselves?
Human beings are the greatest thing we experience in our physical life. The joyful giving of oneself to another (that is, Love) is our greatest experience. Yet, we humans are terribly flawed. We are not always very loving or even loveable. How sad if we are the best there is. That would be something to make you sing the blues. By ourselves, wisdom shows, we humans are not worth singing about. When we do sing of ourselves, that merely shows our conceit.
Finally, a point about Sundays. When we say, “Thank God it's Friday!” we are not just making it up. The “sabbath day of rest” is a uniquely scriptural concept. That is, we would not have the weekend off, Saturday for the Jews and Sunday for the Christians, without the Bible.
I want you to enjoy your free Sunday. Shouldn't you acknowledge where it comes from? I want you to have reasons to sing. But without the Source of Love and Joy, I'm afraid you'll find the music goes a little flat.