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August 2014
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As I was reading Michael Winerip’s article this morning in the New York Times, titled “Teenagers Speak Up for Lack of Faith,” on the rise of atheist (and agnostic) clubs in U.S. high schools, I was drawing parallels to the secular music scenes with which I am familiar.

As I mentioned here recently, it has been my perception, confirmed from time to time by studies, that rock and roll musicians, and a good number of fans of popular music, take music as their religion or spirituality, or at least as a substantial part of it. Especially in rock cultures, this frequently means an agnosticism or atheism regarding what is taken to be traditional religious belief. (For example, see the Geddy Lee interview to which I recently linked.)

Winerip’s article mentions how there is a new legal space in U.S. high school life for atheist clubs, and in secular music culture the cultivation of music as its own spiritual, religious or quasi-religious “end” is widespread and the subject of much popular culture research. When these habitations between faith and music, whether religiously “orthodox” or atheistically “secular” or some other configuration, are the best that people can do at a given point in their lives, I encourage it intellectually, based on my theological sense for an ineffable yes to life calling everything forward.

But at the same time, I want to say to the newly-confident secular atheist clubs, whether in school or in music, that commitment to secularity itself, as freedom from religion, is not a get-out-of-jail-free-card. As philosopher of religion Talal Asad among others have argued in a series of important works, secular culture in the West has its own history and interlocking relation with religion, and arises in tandem with — and frequently serves — the power of modern states. This does not mean therefore that religious people “win”. Only that there seems to be no religious or

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