This weird thing has been happening since I started with the atheist blogging. I'm not happy about it, and I'm wondering if other godless people have experienced it -- and if so, how you've dealt with it.
What's happening is that I don't want to listen to religious music anymore.
When a song about Jesus or God comes up on my shuffle, I feel this cringing, this little internal flinch. And I almost always skip past it.
It didn't used to be that way. I was always able to just listen to the music, and either ignore the words or appreciate them as expressing a common human sentiment I didn't happen to share. Like sad tortured love songs, or murder ballads. Unless the religious content was unusually heavy or actually offensive, I never even thought about it that much.
But since I've been spending so much time writing -- and thinking -- about atheism and religion, my feelings about religious music have become completely different. Not my thoughts, you understand, or my opinions. My thoughts and opinions about religious music are very much what they ever were. It's a purely emotional response. The response is, "This is fucked-up. I don't want to listen to this."
And I don't like it.
Some of my favorite music has religious content. I don't want to not like it. I don't want to flinch when I hear it. Some of the best music ever written is religious music. And there's lots of it. I don't want to be cut off from it all.
It's especially a problem now because it's Christmastime. And while I realize this makes me a total freak, I actually like Christmas carols. A lot of them, anyway. I don't like the sappy Musak versions, or the drippy modern ones like (shudder) "The Little Drummer Boy." But "Joy to the World"? "Angels We Have Heard On High"? "The Angel Gabriel"? That shit rocks!
I don't want to not like Christmas music. I like liking Christmas music. I want to be able to hear it, and sing it, and be happy about it. And as much as I like the secular songs and the parodies, I don't want to be limited to them.
It's not usually a problem if the music is in Latin or something; I can listen to Mozart's "Requiem" happily and joyfully. It's definitely the words that create the problem.
Which clues me in to why I think this is happening. Since I started atheist blogging, I read religious writing all the time. I read more religious writing than I have at any time in my life since I was a religion major in college. Way, way more. I read it, I think about it, I engage with it, I debate it -- on an almost daily basis.
So now, when I hear, "Help me, Jesus, my soul's in your hands," or, "And when from death I'm free, I'll sing on," or, for fuck's sake, "Oh come, oh come, Emmanuel/And ransom captive Israel" (my candidate for the most anti-Semitic Christmas carol ever)... it doesn't make me think of country roads or street-corner choirs or snowy evenings by the tree with my family listening to the Time/Life Christmas record. It makes me think of Michael Behe, and Dinesh D'Souza, and whatever other lackwit is getting up my nose that week. I don't want to sing along. I want to argue.
But I'm really not thrilled about this. I'm very much hoping it's a phase. Again, there's a vast and wonderful world of religious music out there, and I don't want to get annoyed every time I hear it. If I can happily listen to Smokey Robinson sing about loving a girl he doesn't like very much, or Nick Cave sing about committing mass murder, I should bloody well be able to listen Johnny Cash or the Anonymous 4 sing about Jesus.
So I'm wondering: Have any of the godless people reading this blog ever had this happen? Did you get over it, or is it still a problem? How did you deal with it? This is bugging me, and any advice you can give would be greatly appreciated.