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Thread: To Atheists/Agnostics: Does "religiosity" in Classical music puts you off?

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    Senior Member peeyaj's Avatar
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    Lightbulb To Atheists/Agnostics: Does "religiosity" in Classical music puts you off?

    A friend of mine, an Atheist can't listen to the religious works of Bach and Allegri's Miserere ( he listens to Mozart and Verdi's Requiem, though), because he thought these works even though beautiful is violation to his beliefs. I know, he is one of the few exceptions of these, but I ask our Atheist/Agnostic members:

    Does "religiosity" in classical music puts you off?

    I hope we can have a good and intelligent discussion here.


    Disclaimer: I'm an Agnostic.
    Schubert manages that most supreme of feats, to be melancholy without being maudlin, his pain is not a mockery of pain but truly heartfelt, and he manages to pass that though with all of its complexities in his music.

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    Senior Member Cnote11's Avatar
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    I can easily answer this question with a profound "no". It honestly doesn't change my opinion of the piece any more so than a great novel steeped in religious themes, etc. I'm an atheist but I've done extensive studies on religion and I collect religious texts. Religion is a strong part of our history and we must accept and embrace that.
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    I'm not a huge fan of Christian religious works. If I were Christian I might find a lot more meaning in them and like them more. Then again if I were Hindu I might like Indian classical music more, or if I were Muslim I might like Islamic music more.

    I suppose any religious music is fine in small doses. I don't mind de-emphasizing a big chunk of the classical music canon to keep those doses small.
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    Senior Member samurai's Avatar
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    Not for me. Even though I am really not a "believer" in any true sense of that word, I can admire and respect the strength and intensity of the belief and love someone such as Bach or Handel obviously felt towards their God. When I listen to some of their works--or something like Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis--I don't discern any attempts to convert me or anybody else, but can appreciate the beauty and the often ineffable and uplifting qualities of the music, which is, after all, to a certain extent exploring a mystery.
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    Senior Member BurningDesire's Avatar
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    Not at all. Even though I'm not religious, and I don't like religion, I still enjoy a ton of music that has a religious subject. Personally I tend to prefer works based on secular subjects, or that are abstract and not tied to any subject, but there's some gorgeous music that served religious purpose or is based on elements of Christian and Jewish mythology, and others too.
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    Senior Member idomeneo's Avatar
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    Absolutely not, it's just music, often some of the best music ever created.
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    Senior Member aleazk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cnote11 View Post
    I can easily answer this question with a profound "no". It honestly doesn't change my opinion of the piece any more so than a great novel steeped in religious themes, etc. I'm an atheist but I've done extensive studies on religion and I collect religious texts. Religion is a strong part of our history and we must accept and embrace that.
    Indeed. For example, when listen to a Requiem, there's no need to be a religious person to understand it or to "feel" the emotions. The emotion on a Requiem is the fear of death. All people, religious or not religious understand this feeling in deep. Religious people have the same philosophical worries of non-religious people. The difference is that they have accepted an answer to these worries that I find unsatisfactory.
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    Junior Member Hayze's Avatar
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    I'm an atheist and the Agnus Dei from Bach's Mass in B minor makes be believe in heaven.

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    Senior Member Cnote11's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by aleazk View Post
    Indeed. For example, when listen to a Requiem, there's no need to be a religious person to understand it or to "feel" the emotions. The emotion on a Requiem is the fear of death. All people, religious or not religious understand this feeling in deep. Religious people have the same philosophical worries of non-religious people. The difference is that they have accepted an answer to these worries that I find unsatisfactory.
    Indeed! As an atheist one should be able to note that these feelings expressed in these works are very much rooted in the human psyche and are not somehow transcendental just because they happen to be inspired by religious. They happen to be relatable and I feel are very firmly planted in this world. I can choose to interpret these religious works as I choose and perhaps in this manner they take on even a grander beauty than their original intent. Besides this, I really happen to like choral music.

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    Senior Member regressivetransphobe's Avatar
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    I appreciate religious music in a more abstract sense than "this is about jesus sitting in a cloud smiling". There's so much history and culture there you can't really reduce it to "I don't believe in this stuff, so there's no way to relate to it".
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    Senior Member graaf's Avatar
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    because he thought these works even though beautiful is violation to his beliefs
    Atheists who hate religion are usually fresh out of abusive relationship with religion. Real atheists don't care. Just like honey badger. However, many people wrongly think that attacking the church for its crimes is hate, but that's another story.

    That being said, I like religious music just like any other music. And contrary to what some religious people like to think, you don't have to be a believer in order to enjoy it "fully", or "properly". I should know, as someone who was practicing Christian, but now is (non-practicing) atheist.
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    Only in the sense that I'm probably more likely to relate to and understand works which express something close to my own worldview. But even then, if something like absolute truth or whatever is expressed beautifully there's no reason I can't enjoy it.

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    Senior Member science's Avatar
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    Doesn't bother me at all. Never occurred to me that it might bother me.
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    Senior Member Crudblud's Avatar
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    Nope.

    P.S.: Nope.
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    Senior Member stomanek's Avatar
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    Not all all. Many ideas inspire great music - belief in God for example - the beauty of the music does not prove the existence of god any more than the beauty of the magic flute proves the philosophy behind the magic flute.
    If you believe - great religious music can bolster your belief - but as an atheist it has no bearing on my own convictions.

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