Steve Van Nattan Ignorantly Says Atheists Never Sing

rca music

How many Christian Fundamentalists view “secular” music. Cartoon by Royston Robertson

Evangelical apologists often say stupid, ignorant, clueless things about atheists. Sometimes, God’s chosen ones even take to lying about atheism in general and certain atheists in particular. Over the years, numerous Evangelicals have lied about me or distorted my past/present life. Evidently, “thou shalt not bear false witness” is absent from their Bibles. Then there are occasions when Evangelical zealots outdo themselves, saying things so absurd that even God says, Dude, really? One such person is Fundamentalist Baptist Steve Van Nattan.

Recently, Van Nattan wrote:

There is no music in Atheism.

They never sing. It is characteristic of all humans around the world that they make music and sing together in some way. Atheism cannot explain the zeal of song and dance. They have no idea where it came from.

….

The other thing Atheists do not have is hope. They have no forward look in their life. The vast majority of the worlds tribes and cultures believe they move on from this life to a better one. The Bible has this theme all the way through, and to this hour millions of Christians look eagerly for the day Jesus Christ returns and takes his Church out of this world and to their “heavenly home.” Atheists mock at this act of faith by Christians. not because it is unreasonable, but because these Atheists know they have no future. They have cussed God out, and they NEED to mock at anyone who believes they will see God one day.

Here is a classic example of hope. If you are an Atheist, and if this makes you mad, SO WHAT? I do not give diddle what you think about it. The fact is, you know your destiny….. HELL. Every Atheist has a deep fear down inside his soul that he may turn out to be wrong, and he can do nothing about it but scream in rage at Christians

Now, perhaps Van Nattan thinks atheism is a religion, and unlike Christianity, we don’t sing hymns and songs of praise to the atheist deity. Duh, right? Atheism isn’t a religion. Atheism is simply: disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods. The American Atheists’ website states:

Atheism is one thing: A lack of belief in gods.

Atheism is not an affirmative belief that there is no god nor does it answer any other question about what a person believes. It is simply a rejection of the assertion that there are gods. Atheism is too often defined incorrectly as a belief system. To be clear: Atheism is not a disbelief in gods or a denial of gods; it is a lack of belief in gods.

Older dictionaries define atheism as “a belief that there is no God.” Clearly, theistic influence taints these definitions. The fact that dictionaries define Atheism as “there is no God” betrays the (mono)theistic influence. Without the (mono)theistic influence, the definition would at least read “there are no gods.”

Atheism is not a belief system nor is it a religion.

While there are some religions that are atheistic (certain sects of Buddhism, for example), that does not mean that atheism is a religion. To put it in a more humorous way: If atheism is a religion, then not collecting stamps is a hobby.

Despite the fact that atheism is not a religion, atheism is protected by many of the same Constitutional rights that protect religion. That, however, does not mean that atheism is itself a religion, only that our sincerely held (lack of) beliefs are protected in the same way as the religious beliefs of others. Similarly, many “interfaith” groups will include atheists. This, again, does not mean that atheism is a religious belief.

Some groups will use words like Agnostic, Humanist, Secular, Bright, Freethinker, or any number of other terms to self identify. Those words are perfectly fine as a self-identifier, but we strongly advocate using the word that people understand: Atheist. Don’t use those other terms to disguise your atheism or to shy away from a word that some think has a negative connotation. We should be using the terminology that is most accurate and that answers the question that is actually being asked. We should use the term that binds all of us together.

If you call yourself a humanist, a freethinker, a bright, or even a “cultural Catholic” and lack belief in a god, you are an atheist. Don’t shy away from the term. Embrace it.

Agnostic isn’t just a “weaker” version of being an atheist. It answers a different question. Atheism is about what you believe. Agnosticism is about what you know.

Atheism requires nothing of its adherents except an affirmation of disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods. From this affirmation, atheists move in a variety of directions. Speaking of the eclectic nature of atheism, American Atheists writes:

The only common thread that ties all atheists together is a lack of belief in gods. Some of the best debates we have ever had have been with fellow atheists. This is because atheists do not have a common belief system, sacred scripture or atheist Pope. This means atheists often disagree on many issues and ideas. Atheists come in a variety of shapes, colors, beliefs, convictions, and backgrounds. We are as unique as our fingerprints.

Atheists exist across the political spectrum. We are members of every race. We are members of the LGBTQ community. There are atheists in urban, suburban, and rural communities and in every state of the nation.

Now that I have dispatched with the “atheism is a religion” canard, let’s return Van Nattan’s central claim: there’s no music in atheism.

According to Wikipedia’s woefully incomplete list titled “atheists in music,” numerous musicians, across a wide spectrum of music genres, publicly profess to be atheists. Evidently, Van Nattan has never heard of Google. Had Van Nattan done a cursory web search, he would have found the Freethought Music website, “A Website for Atheist and Humanist Musicians, Composers and Leaders,” and the Freethought Band.

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Perhaps Van Nattan is ignorant of the fact the co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Dan Barker, is a musician.

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And then there’s outspoken atheist Tim Minchin.

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Then there’s Shelley Segal.

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And finally, let me share music from Monster on Sunday.

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Van Nattan might also want to check out the Songs of Sacrilege series. He will find plenty of atheists who love to sing.

Here’s the BIG point Van Nattan doesn’t seem to get: atheists have at their disposal all of humanity’s music. (Conservapedia misses that point too with their Atheist Music entry.) I am an avid user of Spotify.  When I am in working in my office, Spotify is playing, and it is not uncommon for me to sing along with whoever is playing at the time. Currently, I am listening to Natalie Hemby. Yesterday, I was listening to classic rock. My music tastes are wide, including, from time to time, religious music. You see, it is Van Nattan who has a paucity of music. Due to his narrow Fundamentalist view of the world, Van Nattan is forced to listen to only certain genres of music — and only if the songs have lyrics that comport with his beliefs. Let me illustrate Van Nattan’s worldview. He lives in world of 500 television channels, yet he only tunes into one channel — that which is approved by his version of the Christian God. Van Nattan loves Mayberry RFD — as do I — but that’s the only show he watches. Just think of all the awesome TV shows Van Nattan is missing. So it is with music.

I lived in Van Nattan’s world for most of my life. Imagine coming of age in the 1970s and NOT listening to rock music. Oh, I guiltily caught a few tunes on my car’s AM radio, but most of the time I listened to explicitly Christian music. I was in my 40s before I bought my first “secular” CD — The Carpenters. Today? I am free to listen to whatever tickles my fancy. I am quite eclectic when it comes to music. And that’s what Van Nattan is missing — freedom. He’s in bondage to his God, the Bible, and a lifetime of Fundamentalist dogma.

Van Nattan believes that after he dies, he will go to Heaven — a hotel in the sky for people with the right religious beliefs. Most Fundamentalists believe that they will spend hours each day singing praises to Jesus. Wouldn’t it be great if on his first day in Heaven, Van Nattan heads to praise time — ready to belt out praises to God — only to find out the service is being led by KISS. Well played, Satan, well played.

I will let atheist rockers Monster on Sunday have the final word on this matter. Enjoy!

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10 Comments

  1. GeoffT

    I went to school with a boy called Dave Stewart, whom I still see occasionally, who went on to become half of the duo that called themselves the ‘Eurythmics’, and produced many classic songs, including Sweet Dreams. He was as atheistic as anybody in the class, probably more so. The Beatles were certainly atheists (John Lennon said they were more popular than Jesus) though they seem to have flirted with some weird ideas. I think that’s part of the creative mind; challenging popular views, the opposite of what Van Nattan claims.

    Reply
  2. ObstacleChick

    I am an atheist, and I was singing last night. But maybe I was possessed by demons. I also watched a documentary called, “The Day the Dinosaurs Died” about the massive asteroid that hit the earth 66 million years ago and is believed to be responsible for destroying 75% of life on earth, including dinosaurs. But here’s the hope – life survived and evolved into what we know today. Had that asteroid not hit earth where it did, humans may not have ever evolved. That’s fascinating. Life survived. That’s hope.

    What a wingnut.

    Reply
  3. Zoe

    “Scream in rage” . . . *sigh*

    I’d rather sing and do, ask our grandchildren. 🙂 Bit of a dancer too, I might add. 😉

    Reply
  4. Scott

    Thanks for including the “Freethought Band”. They played at events here in Minnesota for years. They did a variety of music. I always enjoyed their performances.

    Reply
  5. Ami

    This atheist sings everything from baroque to rock to country to ‘whatever’.
    A lifetime of making music didn’t change when I figured out there is no god.

    Every time I read one of these crazy ideas about atheism I am just stunned. With the ease of information at our fingertips wherever we are, there just is no excuse for ignorance.

    Reply
  6. Troy

    Interestingly, the contemporary Christian genre survives by pirating the sound of secular music for decades.

    As the old joke goes just change every instancce of “baby” to “Jesus” and you’re good to go.

    I’ve read that the origin of music is from the rhythm we hear from our own mother’s heart. Everyone has that in common.

    Reply
  7. howitis

    I am a classical music fan, and one of my best friends is a classically trained cellist, and a fellow atheist. She tells me that the reality of the classical music repertoire is that the vast majority of it, up until the Romantic and Modern eras anyhow, was written to be performed in church, or at least was written to glorify the Christian god. Johann Sebastian Bach, one of the greatest classical composers, fed his 22 children by working as a church musician.

    As my friend says, just because she does not believe in Bach’s god does not mean she cannot appreciate the beauty of the music he wrote. One of my favorite composers, the Englishman Ralph Vaughn Williams, was apparently agnostic, if not outright atheist. But he was still able to write beautiful hymn arrangements and sacred music that are still performed in churches today (traditional, liturgical churches anyway.)

    If anything, I think this is just another example of fundies projecting their own shortcomings on everyone else. To me, it seems fundies are the ones unable to enjoy the depth and breadth of what music has to offer, limiting themselves to a (relative) handful of bland, boring, tired hymns; or the banality of “contemporary christian” music, which is usually little more than an inferior version of whatever was the trend in pop music 5 or 10 years ago. I have even had fundie friends tell me that Handel’s “Messiah,” Mozart’s “Requiem” and other pieces of sacred classical music are “for overeducated liberal elitists.”

    It seems to me that fundies are the ones who are culturally illiterate and deprived, not atheists.

    Reply
    1. DoctorDJ

      Exactly my thoughts. All music is man-made, and who cares if the christian church foot the bill for the musicians till 150 years ago.

      “…the Englishman Ralph Vaughn Williams, was apparently agnostic,.. But he was still able to write beautiful hymn arrangements and sacred music…”

      Ditto John Rutter, my favorite living composer/arranger of choral music.

      Reply
  8. Astreja

    I’ve been a musician for over fifty years. I play several instruments, occasionally write music, have sung in choirs (although never a church choir), and have spent probably thousands of hours singing along to an absolutely massive record collection.

    Interestingly I’ve been a non-believer for about the same period of time, give or take a year.

    Van Nattan’s ignorant screed is just one more example of theists claiming ownership of something that was never theirs to own.

    Reply
  9. DoctorDJ

    You forgot Steve Martin and his Steep Canyon Rangers!

    Reply

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