If you haven’t yet, be sure to check out George Hrab‘s new album Trebuchet, as previewed for free on his own Geologic Podcast as well as several others (Dogma Free America, American Freethought, Skepticality, etc.). There are a number of skeptic/freethought tunes on it, insightful lyrics, and a great variety of musical styles. Just bought my own copy and am loving it. Check it out at:
Big Butter Jesus, aka Touchdown Jesus, a giant Jesus monument in southern Ohio made famous in part by comedian-songwriter Heywood Banks, just burned to the ground after being hit by lightning Monday night. Some were saddened by the fire, while others were amused that God would send a lightning bolt to consume a monument to his Son in fire. (God did allegedly send the real thing down to die a torturous death and burn in hell for 3 days, so I think setting the Jesus statue ablaze is nothing in comparison.)
This is big news; it made the mainstream newswires, which is how I found out about it. Fortunately no one was hurt, but it sounds like tons of people stopped by on the highway to see the giant fireball burn.
To look at the thing, in photos at least, you just kind of assumed if it wasn’t made out of butter, it had to be made out of something solid. Certainly somebody must have realized that making a huge flammable statue with a metal frame was not a good idea. I guess not. According to Yahoo News/AP, “it was made of plastic foam and fiberglass over a steel frame.” The steel frame is all that is left now of the $300,000 statue officially called “King of Kings”. But never fear: the church says “”It will be back, but this time we are going to try for something fireproof.” (that’s an actual quote, by the way, from co-pastor Darlene Bishop.)
I found out about the monument thanks to a friend who showed me Heywood’s song a few years back. I thought it was hilarious. My wife, who’s a Christian as I’ve mentioned before, thought the song was hilarious, too. The song is often in my head when reading about various Christian wackiness. Here’s a link to the lyrics; it’s funnier if you just listen to it before reading the lyrics, in my opinion.
Heywood Banks was asked about the fire, and according to Daytona Daily News he said he has concocted new lyrics to the song in light of it burning down (“extra crispy Jesus!”). No YouTube or audio of this version seems available yet, but when it comes out I’ll be sure to post it here.
I’m going to be visiting with my family soon, so there may be fewer updates on the site for a while. I’m hoping to sneak in some time online, but if not wish me luck! This will be this first year that I’m out to my wife at Christmas, but no one else knows I’m an atheist. That should make things interesting. We’ll be seeing mostly my immediate family, which is (at least in the past) less in-your-face about religion. My mom seems to be getting more religious as the years go on, and my brother is religious, but not Christian. So I guess we’ll see.
Here are a few holiday tunes from the hilarious and talented singer Roy Zimmerman for your enjoyment. He often treats themes of peace and irreligion in his songs.
“Christmas is Pain” looks at both the darker and funnier sides of Christmas (“the 8 tiny reindeer have left an embarassing stain”);
“I Won’t Be Home For Christmas” is a take off of the classic “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” (I think the music is actually better in this one than the original, as are the words;
“Hula Yule” is about how Christmas will be like after global warming (I wonder if the folks who met in Copenhagen had heard this one);
“Buy War Toys For Christmas” is pretty self-explanatory (“Kids are dropping napalm on their Christmas trees / Singing “Happy Happy Birthday” to the Prince of Peace”);
and last but not least, the first song I heard of his, Christma-Hanu-Rama-Ka-Dona-Kwanzaa wishing us a “real good time…no matter what your race or religion — or lack thereof”.
Whatever you’re doing or not doing for the holidays, have a good one!
John Lennon’s view on Christmas (or X-Mas in the official title) is unfortunately just as timely today as ever. It’s a song I always make sure to listen to every year around this time. I had also thought about posting “Imagine” here as well (if you’ve seen the icon I often use on the web, you’ll have figured out I’m a big fan of “Imagine”), but I decided to post another, lesser-known song of Lennon’s entitled “God”. If anyone has a doubt as to whether or not John Lennon was religious, this song should put it to rest. People don’t need gods or celebrities to idolize. We can learn from the good (and bad) examples of the past, but we should believe in ourselves, and our own ability to do good in this world.
Nothing brings more joy to this atheist’s heart around Christmas time than seeing the season’s top two fictional characters, Santa and Jesus, doing a lounge act together. In this classic clip from South Park, Santa and Jesus are singing together in a night club, and Santa gets pretty peeved at Jesus. (This is the clean version of the clip; I have one where the expletive Santa uses is not deleted). Singers put out Christmas medleys all the time, but this is by far my favorite Christmas medley.
“There is no justice in the desert / Because there no god in Hell.”
There aren’t many songs by Billy Joel that I can say I saw the world premier of; in fact, this is the only one! My wife and I attended his concert in Chicago in Dec. 2007 and, lo and behold, he announced that there was a new song that he and a new singer named Cass Dillon would be performing that night for the first time ever, and which would be released officially the following Monday. He joked (correctly) that it would probably be uploaded by someone onto YouTube before then.
As you might guess, the song talks about the Iraq war, but focuses on the experiences of soliders, whom Joel mentioned he received a number of letters from. The song touches on the topic of religion briefly at several points. Some people may not know that Joel at leastwas an atheist earlier on in his life, saying in an interview in a book called Rock Stars from 1982:
As an atheist you have to rationalise things. You decide first of all that will not ask Daddy – meaning God in all of his imagined forms – for a helping hand when you’re in a jam. Then you have to try and make some sort of sense out of your problems. And if you try and find you can’t, you have no choice but to be good and scared – but that’s okay! When animals are afraid, they don’t pray, and we’re just a higher order of primate. Mark Twain, a great atheist, said it best in The Mysterious Stranger, when he stated in not so many words, “Who are we to create a heaven and hell for ourselves, excluding animals and plants in the bargain, just because we have the power to rationalise?”
Death is death, and the ego can’t handle the consequences. We should all struggle to the last to hold on to life, and religion encourages people to give up on making this life work because the supposed next life will be fairer. Religion is the source of too many of the world’s worst problems.
More recent reports show he may have become at least somewhat spirtual or religious, saying in 1994:
I still feel very much like an atheist in the religious aspects of things…But there are spiritual planes that I’m aware of that I don’t know anything about and that I can’t explain.
When I saw him in concert, he played as interludes a number of Christian Christmas songs (which doesn’t necessarily indicate anything), and Celebrity Atheist cites reports of him saying “God bless you” to people in recent years (and not after sneezes). I believe he made one or two vague mentions of God during the concert. I remember thinking at the time that I wonder if he was using it as a figure of speech (à la “Oh my God”, etc.) or literally. The song does contain a brief Biblical reference to it: “Peace on earth / Goodwill to men”.
So it’s possible Joel may have become either religious or spiritual, or at the very least has become more circumspect about his disbelief or doubt in god. But if so, it would appear from his lyrics that he and I can agree on the fact that Iraq is not a God-sanctioned war, unlike what George W. and company either sold it as or actually believed. (At the beginning of the song, Joel also includes the presumably ironic/satrical lyrics “We came with the Crusaders / To save the Holy Land” and later on, “We came to fight the Infidel.”)
With troops still dying in Iraq and 30,000 more on their way to Afghanistan, it’s sad that this song is just as topical today as it was back then.
For my second installment of holiday songs, I’ve decided to feature not one, not two, but count ’em — FOUR “Weird Al” Yankovic songs. As far as I know, Weird Al has never come out as being irreligious or a freethinker, and he may be Christian (in fact, a question from 1995 in the Ask Al archive from his site includes only a very brief answer to the question of whether he “would consider himself a Christian”. His response to the questioner is simply “Yes”). But nothing is sacred in Weird Al’s universe of songwriting, and I’m including four examples of this.
* “Christmas at Ground Zero” is one of my favorite Christmas songs because it definitely desacrilizes the Christmas season and has an anti-war message. It describes a “jolly” Christmas during a nuclear holocaust and includes vintage 50s and 60s video clips from the good old days when they used to scare kids by practicing for nuclear fallout by ducking and covering, as if that would really help if your city is hit by a nuke. (The song was written long before 9-11 occurred, in case you’re curious, so no relation to that Ground Zero). EDIT: click here to view in a new window if clicking on the embed doesn’t work.
* “The Night Santa Went Crazy” is a (slightly) less macabre and funnier take on the Christmas holiday. As the title might suggest, a “disgruntled” Saint Nick finally snaps and goes postal in the North Pole. The video I’ve embedded below is a claymation-type take on the song that someone apparently did for their thesis. An “extra gory” alternate live version of the song can be seen here. With his two Christmas songs being so violent and laughingly depressing, you get the impression that it must not have been his favorite holiday growing up. (Rumor has it, he got notebook paper as a present one Christmas!)
* “Weasel Stomping Day” is perhaps the least obvious choice to include here, but it actually may come the close to criticizing religion of the bunch. As you might guess, people go around stomping weasels in the song, but if you listen more closely to the lyrics, you’ll hear several subtle freethought-like messages (“Bash their weasely skulls right in / It’s tradition, that makes it okay”), and a few nods to Christmas in the video that suggest that he had religious holidays on his mind
* “Amish Paradise” is one of Weird Al’s best-known songs. It’s a parody of Ganga’s Paradise by Coolio (the other three are Weird Al originals). The song isn’t specifically about a holiday, so I’m bending the definition of “festive” tunes here, but it is the only one that openly pokes fun at religious extremism, that of the “crazy Mennonites” (isn’t that redundant?) the Amish are. It’s also the only video I know of that features both Florence Henderson (the mom from the Brady Bunch) and a depiction of hell!
I wonder what Weird Al, who pokes fun at the Amish for “shunning fancy things like electricity”, would think of the recent stories of extremist orthodox Jews attacking a journalist using an electronic device on the Sabbath, or complaining about electric lights turning on at their apartments on the Sabbath.
Over the next week or so, I’ll try to post some interesting seasonal music (in addition to other news and commentary that may come up).
For the first one, here’s a funny and yet sweet song I just heard for the first time a few minutes ago. It’s called “White Wine in the Sun” by Tim Minchin. It was posted on Life Without Faith (a blog written by Brother Richard from Atheist Nexus) and on Think Atheist (posted by reggie). I see the song was just re-released as a single on iTunes as well (US link). Enjoy!
More behind-the-scenes stuff: I’ve added the ability to share posts (Twitter, Facebook, email, etc.). You’ll find the links for this below each post.
I’m working on a "Save as PDF/Print this post" option for individual posts. If you’re like me, I like saving stories I find locally to my hard drive. If and when my hosting service fixes an issue they created (which has slowed down several things), I should hopefully be able to add this.
As usual, when giving a site update, I also like to include a little something extra. Here’s a YouTube of Susan Werner performing one of my favorite freethought songs, "(Why Is Your) Heaven So Small".
Just a quick post to let you know I haven’t disappeared, been sent to hell by any so-called deities, etc. As I mentioned a while ago, I’ve been working behind the scenes on some things for the site, so some days will have less activity on the surface. I also have some personal news I will share in my next update. In the meantime, check out one of my favorite irreligious songs that a friend of mine shared with me: Big Butter Jesus by Heywood Banks .