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Thread: Is religious music real?

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    Default Is religious music real?

    In other words, is, for example, Gregorian chant actually a form of worship, and a way of actually invoking God or the Holy Spirit, as well as being "just music?"

    The Church fathers thought that it was, indeed, a form of worship; a form of "religious technology" designed to invoke God and create believers.

    In fact, on this very forum, I was criticized by a 'true believer' for saying that I could enjoy Gregorian chant without being a Christian. He said I was "missing it," compared to a believer who listens. What do you say?

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    Senior Member PetrB's Avatar
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    Of course singing long songs demanding of long sustained breathing is 'a path to the way,' a meditation, including upon the text: that is true whether you are Christian, Buddhist, or anyone whose religious practice includes such chanting.

    I have yet to see any truly flip attitude toward those pieces which are religious or those things which used to be directly associated with matters of faith, devotion and spirituality -- BUT -- there is at least as much if not more an equal display of spiritual vanity in a number of postings, often made by those who claim / proclaim to be devout followers of one faith or another.

    When such religious works are mentioned as pieces of music they are most often mentioned without any inflected judgement which could in any way provoke further comment about their religious content, yet we see the "one-upsmanship" sort of vanity post telling all the non-believers how much less they get or understand this music:-)

    About the rest, i.e. it can only have the true meaning if you are a believer, or the opposite, in my book at least, is all vanity.

    It seems it is most often a believer who just has to chime in and either admonish the listeners that "they are not really getting the full monty unless they are a believer," or by saying so, are "informing" the rest of the readers the believer gets so much more from the same piece, i.e. this is just a seriously unattractive smugness best left not responded to at all -- and that particular sort of smug unprovoked post as dropped in a thread does not take a Ziggy, Carl, and several doctorates to figure out what kind of display is being there made.
    Last edited by PetrB; Mar-30-2014 at 21:36.

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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    In other words, is, for example, Gregorian chant actually a form of worship, and a way of actually invoking God or the Holy Spirit, as well as being "just music?"

    The Church fathers thought that it was, indeed, a form of worship; a form of "religious technology" designed to invoke God and create believers.

    In fact, on this very forum, I was criticized by a 'true believer' for saying that I could enjoy Gregorian chant without being a Christian. He said I was "missing it," compared to a believer who listens. What do you say?
    I wouldn't really know whether a Gregorian chant would be able to summon a god over from some spiritual dimension, personally not sure how that would work. But I certainly disagree with the bold text. Music is music, you can listen to it and enjoy it in whatever way you want, no matter what its original intention might have been.

    There is a certain sect of the religious community that always want to claim special knowledge about something. It's like when a Christian or a Muslim says that you can't understand the Bible or the Quaran without being a Christian or a Muslim. Well, sorry, words are words. If I can read the text, and can study what the authors meant by the text, there's no reason to need to be a believer in order to "truly" understand it.

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    Senior Member Whistler Fred's Avatar
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    I too, am a Christian, and things like Gregorian chant or (more particularly) Bach's Cantatas or Part's Passion can speak to me as a believer, perhaps at a level deeper that the music could by itself. But I can also enjoy listening to Ravi Shankar as music, even of I'm not a Hindu by faith. And a suspect that Hindu believer would have a deeper spiritual connection to the Raga than I would. But to enjoy religious music as music - I can't see that as a bad thing. In the end, music's role is to edify, not to convert. And this can be true on other levels than religion.

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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    In other words, is, for example, Gregorian chant actually a form of worship, and a way of actually invoking God or the Holy Spirit, as well as being "just music?"

    The Church fathers thought that it was, indeed, a form of worship; a form of "religious technology" designed to invoke God and create believers.

    In fact, on this very forum, I was criticized by a 'true believer' for saying that I could enjoy Gregorian chant without being a Christian. He said I was "missing it," compared to a believer who listens. What do you say?
    Of course it's real. I am sure J.S. Bach would agree. As for the 'true believer', you should have told him that words have the power build and destroy, and that he, as a 'true believer' should think before uttering such things.
    Last edited by Morimur; Mar-30-2014 at 21:29.

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    Senior Member Jobis's Avatar
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    He who sings prays twice!

    Every joyful sound is pleasing to the Lord, its not that he demands worship or somehow requires it, but rather all religious music is an expression of gratitude of sorts. This may be governed by the sense of obligation felt when we believe our talents are a gift from God. Many of us, believers or not would say Mozart (for example) had a 'God-given talent', however seriously you take the sentiment, and he was in a sense just fulfilling a duty by writing such beautiful music.

    I think religious music (like gregorian chant or hymns) exists on a purely practical level as say; marching band music does, but all 'holy' music (in the broadest sense) I think is defined by sentiments of good will and a respect for beauty or the transcendent on the part of the composer.

    Its nothing more for me than distinguishing between Monteverdi's sacred and secular works; they all reflect his love to create and reverence of beauty.

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    Bach said, "Music's only purpose should be the glory of God and the recreation of the human spirit."

    Is this true or not? Is it up to us? Can we listen to Bach validly and correctly if we do not recognize this intent on his part?

    Why should our opinion, if we are non-believers, be relevant in assessing Bach's music if we, as non-believers, are missing its primary intent and purpose? That would be hubris, it seems to me.

    Belief is irrelevant; what matters is the effect on our spirit. This music is a technology of religion, created to invoke the spirit of God IN US. Is it not?

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    Quote Originally Posted by PetrB View Post
    Of course singing long songs demanding of long sustained breathing is 'a path to the way,' a meditation, including upon the text: that is true whether you are Christian, Buddhist, or anyone whose religious practice includes such chanting.
    'a path to the way'? Perhaps a path to a 'way'. Surely, each to his own way, and his own path. If you have a fellow traveller, so much the better, I'd say, but there will be those for whom company is not the right way.

    I'm quite sure I can invest music of all kinds, with all kinds of significances, but I can't pretend to really know what significances music has for others. I have no problem with the idea that someone with religious convictions might well get (probably should get) something additional to and different from what I get out of, say, the St Matthew Passion. That doesn't diminish or invalidate my responses.

    [add]

    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    Bach said, "Music'sonly purpose should be the glory of God and the recreation of the human spirit."

    Is this true or not? Is it up to us? Can we listen to Bach validly and correctly if we do not recognize this intent on his part?

    Why should our opinion, if we are non-believers, be relevant in assessing Bach's music if we, as non-believers, are missing its primary intent and purpose? That would be hubris, it seems to me.

    Belief is irrelevant; what matters is the effect on our spirit. This music is a technology of religion, created to invoke the spirit of God IN US. Is it not?
    But Bach could be wrong. Am I not entitled to use music for any purpose that I want? I don't see how to do so would be a matter of hubris.
    Last edited by MacLeod; Mar-30-2014 at 22:02.

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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    Bach said, "Music's only purpose should be the glory of God and the recreation of the human spirit."

    Is this true or not? Is it up to us? Can we listen to Bach validly and correctly if we do not recognize this intent on his part?

    Why should our opinion, if we are non-believers, be relevant in assessing Bach's music if we, as non-believers, are missing its primary intent and purpose? That would be hubris, it seems to me.

    Belief is irrelevant; what matters is the effect on our spirit. This music is a technology of religion, created to invoke the spirit of God IN US. Is it not?
    We all believe in something, otherwise music would be meaningless noise to us. You might believe music is just a source of pleasure, but the fact that Bach's music can move you on a deeper level proves in a sense its power.

    My answer; yes, 'non-believers' miss the point of music, because they don't even begin to confront the question of whether the universe has meaning or purpose. However once you believe in any concept of beauty or the meaningfulness of art you cannot call yourself a complete 'non-believer'.

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    Quote Originally Posted by violadude View Post
    I wouldn't really know whether a Gregorian chant would be able to summon a god over from some spiritual dimension, personally not sure how that would work. But I certainly disagree with the bold text. Music is music, you can listen to it and enjoy it in whatever way you want, no matter what its original intention might have been.

    There is a certain sect of the religious community that always want to claim special knowledge about something. It's like when a Christian or a Muslim says that you can't understand the Bible or the Quaran without being a Christian or a Muslim. Well, sorry, words are words. If I can read the text, and can study what the authors meant by the text, there's no reason to need to be a believer in order to "truly" understand it.
    Okay, then by default, you agree with the premise that "religion" or "spirit" is not the exclusive domain of any one religion or dogma; it is therefore a universal "given," and religion/dogma are simply after-the-fact tools which allow us to "invoke" and nurture our "spirit."

    This leaves us with the music itself. Since it is designed to invoke God, or activate our "spirit," then it is a power which can "activate psychic forces within us," or as Jung said, to "activate the God archetype," which is a universal feature of all human psychology.

    Do you think you're any different than all the rest of us? I say, there are archetypes within you which can be activated by this music, and this does not depend on belief or dogma in order to work its "magic."

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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    Okay, then by default, you agree with the premise that "religion" or "spirit" is not the exclusive domain of any one religion or dogma; it is therefore a universal "given," and religion/dogma are simply after-the-fact tools which allow us to "invoke" and nurture our "spirit."

    This leaves us with the music itself. Since it is designed to invoke God, or activate our "spirit," then it is a power which can "activate psychic forces within us," or as Jung said, to "activate the God archetype," which is a universal feature of all human psychology.

    Do you think you're any different than all the rest of us? I say, there are archetypes within you which can be activated by this music, and this does not depend on belief or dogma in order to work its "magic."
    You seem to think the effect of religious music is exclusive to the religious. No; the entire effect is self contained within the beauty of the music itself; the sentiments expressed are intended as a giving back to God, not as sets of code to produce more joy in believers.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jobis View Post
    'non-believers' miss the point of music, because they don't even begin to confront the question of whether the universe has meaning or purpose.
    This doesn't follow .

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    Quote Originally Posted by Whistler Fred View Post
    I too, am a Christian, and things like Gregorian chant or (more particularly) Bach's Cantatas or Part's Passion can speak to me as a believer, perhaps at a level deeper that the music could by itself. But I can also enjoy listening to Ravi Shankar as music, even of I'm not a Hindu by faith. And a suspect that Hindu believer would have a deeper spiritual connection to the Raga than I would. But to enjoy religious music as music - I can't see that as a bad thing. In the end, music's role is to edify, not to convert. And this can be true on other levels than religion.
    One glance at the religious music category, and multiple entries there talking about the music show that many who say those works have more meaning if you are a believer immediately start discussing the text the music is set to, and not the music itself. Logical, of course, and to that degree only, those works have more 'meaning,' than to a listener who is not so raptly attentive to those texts. Maybe more accurately, those works have at least a more specific meaning as perceived by believers who do subscribe to that faith.

    With my penchant belief in the non-literal being the base of music (i.e. somewhat discounting or excluding what text is set to music as being what is music's effect) and being more an adherent of the tenet, "The way is one the paths are many," I think it actually a bit presumptuous to assume that the non-subscriber could not have exactly the same import of feeling when hearing such works as the believer does.
    Last edited by PetrB; Mar-31-2014 at 00:47.

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    I was more of a true believer in my younger days than I am now. Does this mean my appreciation for sacred music no longer exists? In fact I, like Bach was raised in the Lutheran church, and I hated the church music of my youth. I would say that with age and experience, I'm hearing things in the music to a greater degree than when I was younger.

    But ultimately, it's the degree of musical literacy that should be a determining factor, not one's religious beliefs.

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    Quote Originally Posted by PetrB View Post
    One glance at the religious music category, and multiple entries there talking about the music show that many who say those works have more meaning if you are a believer immediately start discussing the text the music is set to, and not the music itself. Logical, of course, and to that degree only, those works have more 'meaning,' than to a listener who is not so raptly attentive to those texts. Maybe more accurately, those works have at least a more specific meaning as perceived through the believers who do subscribe to that faith.

    With my anti literalism in music (including what the text set to music is) and being more an adherent of the tenet, "The way is one the path is many." I think it actually a bit presumptuous to assume that the non-subscriber could not have exactly the same import of feeling when hearing such works as the believer.
    With regards to Christian music, the text has always been as important as the music itself, if not more so.

    John 1
    King James Version (KJV)
    1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
    Last edited by Morimur; Mar-30-2014 at 22:14.

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