One of my favorite atheists is comedian/playwright Steve Martin. He’s undeniably smart and of course sharply funny. A few years back wrote a self-deprecating song about atheism’s rather blatant lack of poetry and meaning…
ATHEISTS DON’T HAVE NO SONGS
Christians have their hymns and pages. Hava Nagila’s for the Jews.
Baptists have the rock of ages. Atheists just sing the blues.
Romantics play Claire de Lune. Born agains sing he is risen.
But no one ever wrote a tune for godless existentialism.
For Atheists, there’s no good news. They’ll never sing a song of faith.
In their songs, they have a rule: the “he” is always lowercase!
(Music & lyrics by Steve Martin)
I admit I’m biased about religion. Just like everyone else.
Everyone has inclinations toward certain opinions, for one reason or the other. Maybe their upbringing, their experience, some trauma, you name it. I am no exception.
That’s why I immediately distrust anyone who tells me they arrived at what they believe by totally unbiased research. This is where I have trouble with some atheists, who are often so passionately against something they claim to be dispassionate about.
Interestingly, I get along well with my agnostic friend Jack. He admits he wasn’t brought up believing, just as I admit I was brought up in church. Our childhoods obviously affected how we perceive God and the importance of faith. They had to.
But I’ve got a dog in this fight (as we say down south) that’s much bigger than just how I was raised. Even if God were somehow disproven by some consortium of Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Stephen Hawking, and, um… Bill Nye the Science Guy, I would still strongly believe in God.
Why? Well, several things…
Music, for instance.
Have you experienced this? That feeling you get when you hear music, just instrumental music with no connotations to trigger anything intellectual in your brain. And yet, it touches something deep within you. Something beyond just emotion. Something spiritual.
This happens to me when I hear music like Rachmaninoff or Ravel. I sit there…at first moved, then emotional, then blubbering like a child who just got spanked on the playground.
So how does a sound, with no concrete data whatsoever, communicate emotion? Why does a switch to a minor key make things sound more serious, perhaps even tragic? And then, how can a high string line suddenly turn things around from tragedy to now a sudden melancholy bittersweetness that gives the tragedy nobility and divinity?
And then there are babies.
Scientists seriously try to tell us our love for them is all hormones and genetic evolution. They try to explain that their helplessness triggers some survival instinct in us to further our species.
Seriously, that’s the best you’ve got?
That’s why when my 2 year old takes off her clothes and runs out of our front door, the neighbors think it’s adorable? Yet if I do the same thing, suddenly you call the police?
But I digress…
In fact, it’s so very, many things. Not just music, but art and laughter and joy and wonder and whimsy. Things like how allegory, metaphor, simile and symbolism point to simple daily occurrences having deeper meaning and spiritual depth.
For me, I’ve found immeasurable meaning in these things that can’t be explained by “the facts”. For me, those things point blatantly to God, because they are transcendent. And without God, nothing, absolutely nothing is transcendent. Everything is ultimately just matter, electrical charges, cause and effect, cut and dried.
And where’s the fun in just the “matter of fact”? In fact, that’s why “atheists don’t have no songs”. Good songs are ultimately the cry of the soul for something more, something transcendent, whether it’s love or God or whatever.
Atheism says, “There is nothing more. Stick a fork in us, we’re done.”
God says, “There is nothing but more, and more than you can ever imagine. And it’s all filled with immeasurable meaning, wonder, and joy!”
In fact, the Bible portrays God’s love for me as so passionate, He sings love songs over me!
“The Lord your God in your midst,
The Mighty One, will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.”
– Zephaniah 3:17
Ignore his voice if you choose, but you’ll never sing a more beautiful song than His.
Without God, every selfless sacrifice of someone dying to save others was ultimately pointless, because those he saves will soon die as well. If we’re being honest, all any hero’s sacrifice did was extend the chance of another person’s suffering even more in this life.
That hero only forestalled the inevitable: death.
In fact, without God, human life only has worth and value as long as the majority of other people say it does. There’s no higher ethic than the majority. So God help us (pun intended) if the majority loses their minds. Or more likely, if my life is not personally beneficial to the majority.
If not, who’s to say it’s wrong to do away with me when I start to get too much in the way.
You see, God’s what injects life and humanity with viral meaning, bubbling over into every crevice of existence. It makes even my worst of days worth living.
Honestly, God is where my heart will always go, regardless of the latest data. So don’t bother sending me that article you just know will shake my faith. Sure, I’ll read it, but you’re waisting your time – it won’t make a bit of difference.
I’ll continue to respect my friend Jack on his journey. But I’ll never stop hoping and praying he meets my Father.
And with absolutely no condescension in my heart, I’ll also pray for Steve Martin. I’ll pray that maybe he’ll find a new song, too. Maybe one he’ll want to sing for all eternity.