By Cory Doctorow at 3:46 pm Mon, Nov 8, 2010
A reader writes, "From Austin City Limits (2010) Steve Martin & the Steep Canyon Rangers perform his original a capella 'gospel' tune for the non-believers among us."
Steve Martin: Atheists Don't Have No Songs
Oh ho, Steve Martin. The very excellent folk ‘n’ roll band “The Low Anthem” have already beaten you to the punch with their album “Charlie Darwin”. “Gospel music for atheists” is pretty accurate, I’d say. Here are a few cuts:
And he sure is right about atheists having “rock ‘n’ roll” (this is my favorite track):
Fwew! Thank goodness theboredom pointed out there are already songs about atheism! Especially if a twee alt-rock band made the ultimate song about atheism. Steve Martin, bow your head in SHAME. We all hate listening to songs about subjects we have already heard songs about. Jeez. Didn’t he get the memo, sent down from hipster beardland? The Low Anthem has it covered, Steve, move on already!
The ONLY thing missing here is the arrow through the head.
“If there is a god, give me a sign! See, there is no bleebedy bloog gibberish gibberish gibberish…”
Wonderful! But we also have The Rap Guide to Evolution. (Not that evolution is just for atheists, but it does start with the voice of Richard Dawkins…so I’m just sayin’…)
Loving this :D is actually really good.
Testify, my brothers!
We’ve got plenty of songs. See: George Hrab, Tim Minchin, Graydon Square.
Awesome, a fellow hrab fan!
Steep Canyon Rangers are the greatest. Been seeing them for over ten years. So happy they hooked up with Steve Martin.
Great song! However, the Unitarian hymnal has quite a few hymns that either include atheists or at least exclude god. Just saying.
Almost as good as Spitting Image’s Atheist Tabernacle Choir
I knew Steve Martin was a comedic entertainer.
I knew Steve Martin was a bluegrass musician.
I did not know he did both at the same time.
That was fairly funny. I like.
Atheists also have nerdcore.
Awesome! I love Steve Martin.
Just great. Now I have to sit through the choir Sunday without thinking of this and LMAOIC. (Laughing My Ass Off In Church)
“LMAOIC. (Laughing My Ass Off In Church)”
The reason Atheists “don’t have no songs” (note the double negative) is that Atheism is a negative, in itself. It only specifies what it doesn’t believe in, not what it does believe in.
Many atheists are (or would be, if they knew what it meant) also humanists, and that does describe a belief.
I don’t mind not having any “faith songs” to sing, as an atheist. I would love to have humanist songs to sing, though.
Maybe I should try and write some myself.
A large part of why I’m atheist is that I detest singing in groups.
I just detest groups
Let’s not forget about Vienna Teng’s excellent ‘Soon, Love, Soon’, or ‘Atheist Christmas Carol’.
Soon, Love, Soon: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VqEyi_MUHF0
Atheist Christmas Carol: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L4wVRcE5gIs
Everybody has everybody else’s music.
That was pretty funny.
See, times like this I really enjoy my Agnosticism.
Not only do I stand on a stronger logical foundation than Believers and Atheists both, but I also have free reign to pick and choose any piece of music from any religious tradition to enjoy as I please!
I know the terms “Agnostic” and “Atheist” get swapped around a lot, and I truly do believe that they mean different things to different people. For myself, Atheism means just what it suggests; the person does not subscribe to the view that there is any god, and does not follow any particular diety. You can’t prove a negative.
But all that aside, I really liked the tune. :)
I consider myself agnostic by (lack of) faith, and Atheist by political means. No matter what you consider yourself (humanist, etc) being Atheist in today’s sociopolitical context means to gather together under one flag to counter the Church and one-sided religious power and abuse.
We are all different; yet to accomplish things we need to come together, and Atheism seems to be gaining momentum and strength, maybe just enough to balance things out a little. Hence, the ‘negation of something’ may be exactly what we stand for on the political arena. :)
I think Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence” would work well as an atheist hymn.
Agnostics get all the songs that may or may not be about god. So lots of pop music, really.
God I wish that atheists had something to say by themselves but clearly, if all religions were ot be abolished they would too since they exist only in reaction to them.
An “E” for “effort” is the best I can manage for this.
@IamInnocent: I think you’re taking Steve Martin’s songwriting a bit too seriously. Though he did study philosophy, I seriously doubt that he was trying to make a deep philosophical statement with the lyrics to this song. He was just trying to be funny; and, in my opinion, he succeeded. I’d give it an “A”.
@ no one in particular: The one thing I miss most about church is the singing. (Admittedly, the overall quality of singing in the church I went to as a kid wasn’t all that great; but I have heard some excellent church singing in my lifetime; and I do love to sing.) While I’m not really an atheist (I’m more of a non-sectarian, rationalistic panentheist) I’m definitely not a big fan of organized religion, and see little value in churchgoing. So I miss out on the singing. Moreover, I find that many of the classic Christian hymns express dogmas and sentiments that I simply cannot endorse. It would be nice if someone would write some songs in the style of the old beloved hymns that expressed the positive virtues that Christianity supposedly stands for â€“ love, mercy, forgiveness, the Golden Rule, joy, peace, etc. â€“ without any of the judgmental or sectarian messages that are embedded within many of the traditional hymns. I may just have to take a look at that Unitarian hymnal that Anon #7 and airshowfan mention.
How else would you know someone is an atheist if they weren’t commenting on religion?
Am I the only person who thought this song wasn’t that much fun? I like Steve Martin in general, but I thought this video was kinda boring.
And, like many have pointed out above, we do have plenty of songs. How does that Tim Minchin song about the pope go? Oh, yeah… vimeo.com/11338327 … That’s a fun one :]
I’m with anon#7: As an atheist Unitarian Universalist, our hymnal has plenty of songs, some of which even do a good job capturing that Carl-Sagan-esque wonder as we contemplate how small we are, how big the universe is, how great it is to be alive and conscious and happy and able to make a difference, and how rich the human sphere and the natural world are with interesting surprises.
I saw that another anon briefly addressed the subject, but I would like to state again that atheists clearly are believers, some of them very firm believers. Agnostics are the non-believers. Don’t mix up the terms. (They are very simplified though. Consider a great map of all the possible world views. Some people point at a very specific point and say: “I think we’re right here.” Other people gesture vaguely at the map and say: “I suppose we’re somewhere in this area.” The perfect agnostic shake his head and say: “Frankly, I don’t have a clue about where we are.”)
It’s a joke, people. Don’t take it literally. I try to imagine the people who leave notes like “what’s Steve Martin talking about? There are plenty of atheist songs!” Are they the same people who run tests at home to make sure that Dawn provides exactly 30% more suds than the leading brand?
Some things are not for the literally-minded. See: metaphor. Also: humor.
Certainly nihilism can be considered a form of atheism and there are plenty of nihilistic songs that are well known and loved by plenty of contemporary white North Americans (‘I Wanna Be Sedated” by the Ramones, for instance). Atheists got lots of songs.
Bad men have songs too.
What a shock!
Last year I posted a “Playlist for Former Fundies” to the Huffington Post and people responded by sending me 150(!)songs that fit the bill. You can find them at Awaypoint.wordpress: Music for Former Fundies – unvetted. http://awaypoint.wordpress.com/2009/09/17/music-for-former-fundies-unvetted/
Very nice! But as pointed out, atheists have lots of tunes! My favorite is Zappa’s “The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing.” Here’s a great a cappella version:
Now I like those stories
About angels, unicorns, and elves
Yes, I like those stories
As much as anybody else, but
When I’m seeking knowledge
Either simple or abstract
The facts are with science
The facts are with science…
– They Might Be Giants, “Science is Real”
Now I can say gospel music is awful without being accused of bias.
We have thousands of songs. You just have to turn to the Hardcore Punk section of the record store.
However YOU use them, agnostic means you believe we can’t know if god exists (gnostic = knowledge). That is how the coiner of the word (Huxley) defined it.
Atheist means without religion, without theism. It does NOT mean you definitely believe there is no god, it means you lack a belief in god. Most people who say they are agnostics are atheists who don’t like the term or who were given a bad definition of the terms.
Many atheists are also agnostics. They don’t believe in god because they don’t believe such knowledge would be available even if he/she did exist.
This song is vaguely insulting, totally inaccurate (hasn’t he heard John Lennon’s “Imagine?”) and not very funny.
A lot of commenters have pointed out the fact that this song is inaccurate. Well, keep in mind that Steve Martin has a really bad reputation for factual inaccuracies in his songs. Did you know that King Tut was not really born in Arizona, and that he never actually moved to Babylonia? It’s true. Look it up if you don’t believe me. You’d think Steve Martin would have fact checked something like that. The man has no journalistic integrity! It’s almost enough to make me distrust all novelty songs as a reliable source of factual information. I have to admit that there are moments when I doubt whether Snoopy really did fight the Red Baron, or whether a one-eyed, one-horned flying purple people eater really did come to Earth because it wanted to get a job in a rock-and-roll band. But maybe I’m just being cynical. Perhaps I shouldn’t dismiss the truthfulness of the entire genre of novelty songs just because Steve Martin has let a few factual errors creep into his lyrics. After all, I’m pretty sure that Weird Al’s songs are reliable sources of information. But even Wikipedia is a better source than Steve Martin’s songs. In fact, his lyrics are almost, but not quite, as untrustworthy as Fox News. Sad, but true.
I’d like to suggest an alternative definition of ‘Atheist’. When contemplating the mysteries there are two basic approaches – 1. (Mystical) Make up a story that eliminates the mystery. (The story often involves a super-being created in the image of the story teller. Because “advanced” cultures have exterminated so many “less advanced” cultures and because so many adults have indoctrinated their children with “their story” our species has settled on a couple of standard competing stories.) or 2. (Atheist) Don’t need no stinkin’ story. It’s ok to be a mystery.
I’m an Episcopalian. I call our hymnal “Melancholy Baby”. It’s AWFUL! I’ve never heard such terrible music and lyrics. I attend a spoken (as opposed to musical) service just for that reason. Steve’s song had more rhythm than the entire Episcopal hymnal.
I actually enjoyed this song, and it is funny.
Unfortunately, the consequences of what we believe or do not believe may not be so funny, and it makes me sad that so many people are able to shrug that off.
Please don’t get me wrong. I certainly respect the beliefs of others. That said, I just like to point out that it’s very possible one of us, some of us, or all of us might actually be wrong. That’s why I encourage everyone to continue searching for the truth, just in case.
I myself have observed that there are small things in the world around us that really seem to prove God does exist, and for whatever reason, is watching and waiting. One of these proofs is, of all things, earthworms. Worms are necessary to keep the soil enriched. They are present throughout the world. Without them, all life would cease after a few years.
If God did not create worms, bugs, plants, etc., then how could all these things have “known” to evolve to match each other? Why did worms never evolve above their current “level” and move on? Same question for bees. Thank God they did not — I like food!
There are many other things that prove God’s work in our world, at least to me. The next question that arises is: “If God is real, then what does he want from me? Or does he want anything?” I think he does, but again, that is for each person to discover on his own.
I am just asking, please don’t dismiss the possibility out of hand. Continue to seek the truth.
If there is a creator and he holds us accountable, I doubt we’ll be able to use our mistaken beliefs as a defense…
I just wanted you to know that your comment caused me physical pain. I do not have the words or the time to express to you why your comments about evolution were so mindbogglingly ignorant, but… seriously. I literally banged my head against the hardest nearby surface (which happened to be my knee). I just wanted you to know that. So you could feel bad. So feel bad, please. Because that would make me feel better. Because those words up there? They make me hurt. That is all.
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