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Geddy Lee, Jewish Atheist

Posted in: General,Judaism by Tom Beaudoin on April 1, 2011

The magazine Heeb interviewed Rush singer-bassist-keyboardist Geddy Lee a couple of years ago, focusing especially on his relationship to Jewishness/Judaism. Like most rock bands, Rush rarely speak in interviews about religion, although their lyrics have constantly registered a strong skepticism about religion, and in more recent years edge toward agnosticism or atheism. This has caused some discomfort and mild protest from religious Rush fans, as Rush drummer and lyricist Neil Peart has made criticism of religion and articulations of a post-religious sensibility more frequent in Rush songs in recent years.

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From my perspective, it is refreshing to read Lee speaking frankly, albeit in a typically clipped rock-interview style, about the place of the Holocaust in his family’s life, and about his Jewish atheism. Theology is nothing if not a certain relentless and learned preoccupation with divinity, and theological preoccupations are best sculpted in free and frank exchanges and inquiry about how people experience and process their worlds. For this reason, I wish the interviewer would

have followed up more about what Lee thinks about religion and the role his relationship to his Jewish identity and background plays in his musical life.

I think that many musicians and fans deeply involved in secular music find a creative set of ways of understanding what they take the spiritual life to be. (Several years ago, through a Rush fan site, I got a question submitted to Lee about the role of religion or spirituality in the making of Rush music. His reply (which I have somewhere on video) was fairly vague and indirect, but it was also clear that religion as he understood it held little conscious importance for the music.)

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The interview is in two parts. Part one is here. Part two is here.

One Rush song, “Red Sector A,” is based on Lee’s mother’s experience as a survivor of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. In this post I have embedded two videos featuring live performances of that song, one from a few years ago and one from the mid-80s.

Tom Beaudoin

Hastings-on-Hudson, New York


  1. It is sad for me to hear of an atheist, who claims to be that in spite of the evidence. It’s more sad when they are Jewish, since through even more evidence given by miracles, the best of which is the Messiah, God chose to reveal Himself to the world.

    Comment by downtown dave — July 12, 2011 @ 7:33 am

  2. Stop trying to spread your religious nonsense. I applaud the fact that Geddy is an atheist. You know why he’s an atheist? He weighed the evidence against God and for God, and found way more evidence against the existence of God. Another thing, what evidence do you have that God or Jesus have done miracles? If you have evidence I would love to see it, we could change the world.

    If you are going to use the Bible as evidence don’t waste your time. The Bible is not evidence of God’s existence, it’s a book.

    Comment by Non-believer — February 6, 2012 @ 6:26 pm

  3. Dont you just love so called aheist? They spend their time denying the existence of God. But want people that believe in God to prove to them that God does exist..So why dont you prove to me that God does not exist non-believer.

    Comment by Jerry — March 5, 2012 @ 1:29 pm

  4. While I’m undecided as to the existence of God, or a Universal Power…or a set of spiritual laws regarding cause and effect (in other words how the whole thing works around here), I do question the legitimacy of many of HUMANKIND’s PORTRAYALS of “God” and the many perceived cast of characters. To me, the Bible is but one creative interpretation of unverifiable events that happened two millennia ago; a book that was assembled AND EDITED hundreds of years after the fact by men susceptible to ego, power and fallacy. The same could be said of any accepted book of all the other religions.

    Does this mean that there’s nothing of value in these books? No. in my opinion. To me they’re equatable to books on philosophy and there is good that can be gleaned from just about all of them. But is one book the be-all end-all, one vision of God the real one? No way.

    Comment by Bob Barker — March 7, 2012 @ 11:50 am

  5. I believe in God and Christ and I am also a fan of Geddy Lee’s music. Yeah I kind of wished Geddy wasn’t an atheist…but on the other hand, it’s his choice and I respect him for that.

    Comment by Dave — March 17, 2012 @ 9:07 pm

  6. i was heartbroken when i heard of Geddys beliefs.I truly love him and always have.I myself am a christian and totally believe in the word of God and miracles.ive been praying for Geddy,Alex and Neil for a long time.I can’t stand the thought that someone so good could end up in hell for eternity.i know that God answers prayers and I’m believing for salvation for all 3 of Rushs group.why not take a chance on believing.if you die and go to heaven with Christ ,then youve gained everything but if you die and go to hell ,you’ve lost everything ,and theres no way out EVER.Why not give God a chance and see what he can do.Somehow i wish i could get this message to Geddy. Sincerely Kelly Miller

    Comment by Kelly Miller — November 24, 2012 @ 8:31 am

  7. Even if you dont think there is any proof of Gods existance why would you choose to believe that once you die your gone forever. isn’t it better to belief that you will have everlasting life after your death on earth.

    Comment by Josh — January 1, 2013 @ 2:12 am

  8. Interesting to hear about Geddy’s personal spirituality. But reading the comments, why do those who state a belief in God need constant support from others for it? Why by heartbroken by Geddy’s thoughts? Does it somehow make you uncomfortable with your own belief? And please don’t into some guilt trip about how a soul will be damned forever if you don’t beleive. Is God’s ego so fragile that he needs constant praise and will damn any forever if they express and doubts? That one should be blackmailed into just saying they believe just so they can go to heaven, under the threat of hell and being harmed? Tell me again what kind of Father makes these types of conditional demands of love and eternal unforgiving punishment of thier children? In the Bible God condones the killing of children. Makes NO sense.

    Comment by Brett — February 5, 2013 @ 10:59 pm

  9. @Brett ^ ^ ^
    Perfect post.

    Comment by Lys — March 8, 2013 @ 5:50 am

  10. I too wish Lee’s world-view were more informed. Ayn Rand was a special writer, but Geddy got it wrong. It is not religion that is constraining intellectual/artistic freedom. It is the central planners of nanny state governments. Read the lyrics to 2112 and you will see him refer to a restrictive religion. Our reality is that government plays this role. Science points to God. Religion (specifically Christianity), while imperfect, is fully animated and directed to express love, a perfect love. At least some lyrics on Clockwork Angel align to this fact….

    Comment by Kevin — March 16, 2013 @ 3:56 pm

  11. God is an awesome super-massive God (ruler supreme of the universe… S/He has brought into existence, that includes musical ability… the billion galaxies or however many there are…). When you start to get to know Him (it is difficult sometimes, but yes through the Bible and through other things like His sheer presence through prayer for example, which is beyond subjectivity πŸ™‚ His mercy, righteousness, His humility (God is humble…), the only thing you ‘can’ do (it’s almost involuntary) is fall on your knees in shocked, utter praise (not unlike, in a way, how we are awe-struck by Rush’s brilliant music but much, much more…:-). God is very real, and goes by the name of Yaweh (plus other names). This super-massive merciful God who has names for all the stars and can number the hairs on our heads and the grains of sand on a beach, made ‘part of himself’ more like us, small, wondrously into flesh… Jesus Christ, and conquered what we by ourselves can’t conquer…, our sin, death. He’s the best friend we’ll ever have πŸ™‚
    I love music, it’s my kind of language. But I love God also.

    Comment by Alistair — March 24, 2013 @ 1:36 pm

  12. What the religious and delusion wishful fail to comprehend is the fact 2 working hands accomplish more than 2 million clasp in prayer.

    “So…let me get this straight, people on the planet earth worship a god who is perfect, yet makes humans imperfect, then exiles them to a land of eternal hell for not being perfect?” – Alien #1

    Comment by IQ higher than 70 — April 30, 2013 @ 3:46 pm

  13. If you exist and I exist and plants and other animals exist, why can’t other life forms exist somewhere else in some other way? What makes earthlings so special? I believe in God and all aliens as I believe in me. Why are you so egocentric and closed minded? What is it that you fear so greatly? Jump!

    Comment by cnjd — May 18, 2013 @ 10:04 pm

  14. I have been a fan of and choose to follow still ( saw the concert in Chicago last Sept. And again last night). I am a Christian and believe that the era we were raised in provided the platform for expression from religious constraint. My agnosticism leanings of the 70s through the mid 90s was displaced after praying earnestly for peace with the world after the death of my first wife. In very short order, The Creator of this world and universe of ours spurred me to ask a stranger for her number and she “happened” to be a devout Christian. When I began studying the Bible, my life made sense.
    Christians are not perfect and frequently we give a poor display of what faithful living is about but it takes not away from Gods word. I am grateful for having been broken. I still see the futility of this world’s ways but now I understand it also by design to draw our faithful following of “Our Loving Watchmaker.” I would love the opportunity to speak with Neil Peart. Still loving the music and understand also that not all will be saved. It just “is what it is. “

    Comment by R. Carleton — June 29, 2013 @ 10:28 am

  15. Good to see that there are so many Christians out there encouraging the music scene. As a muso myself, it’s great to be creative, but I would point out, (from reading earlier comments) there isn’t a man who walked this earth who could even conceive the concept of the Christian Bible (Except Jesus), there isn’t a fish in the sea who would have the enthusiasm to jump out and start walking (evolution) and there isn’t a rock in space that would have the notion to explode (big bang). What seems most real – to imagine that life is nothing (The irony given that we are actually discussing the issue) – or even just to start to comprehend that there is a great God looking after us

    Comment by Rusty — December 25, 2013 @ 4:59 pm

  16. I love how the the theists, especially Christians foist their religious belief on others, while claiming War on Christmas(a pagan holiday). How so?

    Oklahoma imposes moratorium on Capitol monuments

    Why did they have a moratorium on religious monuments?

    Because A group of New York-based Satanists indicated earlier this month plans to seek a monument at the (Oklahoma) state Capitol.

    Why did the Satanist want to place a a statute of Baphomet?

    Because it allowed the Ten Commandments monument.

    So what is wrong with having something as moral as the 10 commandments on the capitol?

    Exodus 20:1-7

    20 And God spake all these words, saying,

    2 I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

    3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

    4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

    5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;

    6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

    7 Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

    Who are you Or God to tell me to worship him? Why must taxpayer’s money of atheists pay for something they do not worship or believe? Hell, I live in Los Angeles, and your State funds is also paid for by federal funds, so why must MY money pay for some religious garbage I have no interest in?

    War on Christmas? Yeah, right.

    Comment by TimFromLA — January 29, 2014 @ 11:45 am

  17. I am a Catholic who grew up in west orange nj. Jews irishman and Italian. I’m now 46 and have loved rush since I was 12. And although I suspected but never confirmed that getty was of Jewish decent I guess I always knew but always felt a connection so it never mattered to me. He’ll i can be purple and people will always think I’m strange for being so persistent in my own endeavors. I am an architect irish and german of all things and have studied theology. Let us not separate but come together for this gift of music they have given us. Let the music be.

    Comment by Diane manger — February 27, 2014 @ 5:54 pm

  18. I believe in God. I’ve seen Rush in concert 27 times. One thing you have to understand is that Geddy and Neil are very scientific thinkers, I’d say about 95% of scientific thinkers are agnostics or atheists. Folks often get those two words mixed up. An atheist is someone that 100% doesn’t believe in God. An agnostic isn’t really a non-believer, he or she just says things like, “I’m not saying God doesn’t exist, all I’m asking is that you PROVE it.” I think Geddy and Neil (not sure of Alex’s stance on religion) are more agnostics than atheists.

    And for the atheists, Do you believe in ghosts? Spirits left behind after they pass away. There’s far more EVIDENCE on ghosts and spirits among us. Well that blows the theory of “once you’re dead, you’re just gone forever” out of the water doesn’t it. Are these spirits communicating from heaven? I doubt they’re from hell. Maybe they’re caught in between earth and heaven or hell. Who knows. However we will have all the answers when we die. And I pray for every atheist in the world that God has mercy on your souls. Because a LOT of atheists are very good people and well liked.


    Comment by Karl Withakay — March 21, 2014 @ 1:03 pm

  19. Hi. I am not here to argue or convince anyone as to what he or she must believe. I am a Christian. I also work in the alternative health fields, including Reiki, hypnosis and shamanism. There are Christians who would probably try to change me. That’s fine. They can want whatever they want. If Geddy and the rest of Rush have no interest in what I have to share, I will not push it down their throats. I am not going to try to change them. Finally, from what I have learned about reading the Bible, both from my experience and the support of my pastor, the verses are not meant to be taken just the way they are written. The purpose is to find out what they mean to the individual. Growing in a relationship with God is the intent.

    Oh yeah, as and aside, a minister told me about some elderly Jewish people who were living with Nun’s. Members of the Fellowship would try gently encourage them to convert. The Nun’s did not. They accepted them just the way they were. There’s a lesson in that.

    Comment by Michael — March 24, 2014 @ 12:57 am

  20. The band Rush are 3 very talented musicians and artists. I saw Rush in 86 and was blown away. Although I differ in their opinion about God, of whom I do believe in and His Son Jesus, one cannot deny the truth that these 3 men are very skilled at their craft.

    Comment by Joseph — April 21, 2014 @ 7:32 pm

  21. Hell yeah! Made me like them even more. They know what they’re talking about.

    Comment by Kaitlyn — July 6, 2014 @ 10:42 pm

  22. The fact is these people don’t know any more about
    religion or history, and probably less, than most
    educated people. Just because someone can sing and play an instrument well doesn’t mean they have an opinion or understanding of historical events such as the foundations of major world religions any more than
    your average plumber or secretary.

    Comment by who cares — July 30, 2014 @ 5:39 pm

  23. There are actually tons of Jews who are also atheists. I know that sounds like a bizarre paradox, and I AM speaking of reform Jews not conservative ones, but when I was taking my Intro to Judaism classes at my local ‘temple’ (really a synagogue), there was a whole class devoted to this idea, letting members and potential ones know that there was room for all types in the congregation and that even though it seems to be incongruous, the concept of an atheistic Jew is a very common experience and should not be a barrier to practising the religion.
    Just thought I’d throw that out there.
    Until this article, I’d only suspected that Lee was Jewish. I’m loving that you’ve finally answered that question for me! Thx πŸ™‚

    Comment by Ingrid — September 9, 2014 @ 11:10 pm

  24. Listening to rushs music led me to see about their religous veiws becuase of all the psuedo religious notions present in the lyrics like 21:21 and a farewell to kings as an exbudhist atheist and agnostic half of me wonders if atheist are curious and need proof or are harboring resentment for religion for some reason such as geddy may be? I just want to state this plainly there is a God he loves us all, he isnt love though we are in image and likeness and he is our heavenly father for all you poor sous still searching it was rush and other bands which led me to my faith more importantly though to the religon. As a catholic in the ordinariate of the chair of st peter I still jam to rock like rush and tool and to the amusement of my priest I have brought many to redemption because I see these questions doubts and resentment everyone in an around rock and metal has toward religon exactly what gave me my love of God and The Church. See the catholic church wants us to be individuals and gives us the rules so that we may be freebecause if we operate in the paramparameters we were ment for we will be most happy. For all you doubters out there look into the blood miricles of lapenco our lady of Guadeloupe our lady of la sallet our lady of fatima our lady of akita padre pio the uncurrupted saints like st john vienney the shroud of turin pope john paul 2 assination attempt st terrese lussex etc.

    The lord be with you

    Comment by josh — September 28, 2014 @ 9:38 pm

  25. I am a spiritual person and also a musician that plays guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, sings, writes, and plays live in the Detroit area for many years now. Rush have been a huge influence on my playing instruments as well as writing. Rush also are highly intelligent and intellectual persons who make the listener think and takes the listener on a journey with whatever topic Rush is expressing. Rush for me are actually quite spiritual even though the individual members are not religious or have an actual conscious belief in a god or the hereafter.

    Comment by Joe Iafrate — November 18, 2014 @ 5:27 pm

  26. Quote: β€œSo…let me get this straight, people on the planet earth worship a god who is perfect, yet makes humans imperfect, then exiles them to a land of eternal hell for not being perfect?”

    You have it wrong. God made man perfect but with a free will because He loved us so much. The first man decided to make the wrong choice and be disobedient to God so it is in our genes. God sent His Son Jesus to die as a sacrifice for our sins (disobedience). Accept this sacrifice and turn from your fleshly sins or suffer the consequences. God will be there for you no matter what if you just ask Him.

    I really loved Rush and their music but God convicted me years ago of the dangerous influences of Rock music so I have repented of listening, including Rush. It has been a struggle but deep down the music is not being made with God in mind.

    Comment by Miggy — May 23, 2015 @ 8:05 pm

  27. I’m a catholic, and I just want to say a few things.

    One thing that annoys me is just how much Neil DETESTS religion. ”It’s a plague that resists all science”. Cut the christians some slack. Everybody thinks christianity is bad because of Muslim terrorists. Every time there’s a terror attack, it’s carried out by a muslim. We don’t resist all science. I’m a devout christian, and I believe in the big bang (which was made by God), I believe in evolution (mostly), I believe in bacteria, growth, whatever! I dont think everything is God!

    If Rush wants to be atheist, so be it. But I don’t want to hear you tell me my religion is bad because of ISLAM. Priest rapes are not made in the name of God (unlike terror attacks like 9\11). Christianity has reformed, the crusades are behind us (be grateful for that, or else Europe would be a sharia s***hole). You get the occasional christian nut (just like you get the occasional atheist nut).

    Miggy: You can listen to rock music, I’m pretty sure God has nothing wrong with rock. πŸ˜‰ (I go to church weekly, trust me.)

    Comment by Felix — August 5, 2016 @ 9:24 pm

  28. So sad to hear about who once was my favorite group what they feel about God. Romans 1 says that the godhead is clearly seen thru Creation. The word of god also says that the god of this world/Satan has blinded the eyes of the unbelievers lest the glory/light of the gospelshould shinr unto them 2 Cor 4:4. God is real thru Creation of man, the earth, & the whole universe. I pra ythat Rush will someday receive Christ as their Saviour and make music for Jesus! They’ll be all New Men! I pray they all do soon!

    Comment by John — December 31, 2016 @ 6:04 am

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