Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Music and God

The Reasonable Doubts podcast is looking for input on

a song you like that deals with themes of atheism, humanistic ethics, naturalistic philosophy and all those sorts of things ...
They provide not one, not two, but three ways you can contribute to this effort.

I don't speak for them, but I'd say go ahead and forgo REM's "Losing My Religion" and XTC's "Dear God" (even as performed by Sarah McLachlan). Whatever the qualities of those songs, suffice to say this ground has been covered.

Naturally, or so I will assert, this got me to thinking of what Neko Case songs seem most apposite. Two songs from Fox Confessor Brings the Flood float to the top:

"Margaret vs. Pauline" is a meditation on the randomness of fate in a universe that doesn't bend toward justice at all (nor necessarily away from it), ending with these lines:
Two girls ride the blue line
Two girls walk down the same street
One left her sweater sittin' on the train
The other lost three fingers at the cannery
Everything's so easy for Pauline
And then there's "At Last," a short song that describes and finally embraces the limits of human experience and insight:
I can say that I've lived here in honor and danger
But I'm just an animal and cannot explain a life
Down this chain of days I wished to stay among my people
Relation now means nothing, having chosen so to find

And if death should smell my breathing
As it pass beneath my window
Let it lead me trembling, trembling
I own every bell that tolls me
We are what we are, know what we know, and love what we love, it seems to say, and anything more is mewling speculation. This is a strong affirmation: "I own every bell that tolls me."

Neko Case expands on this theme of human limits throughout Middle Cyclone.

The smart money says that others may be able to cite other songs in this naturalistic, god-free vein and refer them to the guys at Reasonable Doubts.


larryniven said...

This is the cliche thing to say, but..."Losing My Religion" isn't actually about religion as such. Apparently that's just a thing they say in the south (R.E.M.'s from Athens, GA, remember) when they mean "losing my faith in [something or other]." So I guess you could use it anyway knowing that, but it probably wouldn't fit.

Dale said...

True, LN. I've just seen that song suggested, as if by reflex, in similar contexts before. It's a fine song, but N/A for this purpose.