Friday, November 03, 2006
Is the Answer Really 42?
My family went to a performance of gospel music last night, in a small village near where we used to live. My wife bought tickets because a friend of hers was involved in the production. I was thrilled, because I love gospel music with its beautiful (and sometimes lively) melodies and harmonies. I grew up exposed to gospel music. I enjoyed the evening tremendously. My son professed to have been bored by the proceedings, but I did notice a little smile on his lips and a bit of toe-tapping, so I imagine it can't have been all that bad an experience for him.
We were a musical family, when my brother and I were at home with our parents in the 1950s and 1960s. My mother sang and played guitar. My father enjoyed music, but was more a listener than a participator. My brother and I sang together often, harmonizing to gospel songs, some folk music, and later rock 'n roll, often Beatles songs. I headed a rock band in the mid-sixties that never made me any money, but which impressed the girls and was a lot of fun. Earlier in the sixties, for a short time, I was part of a spoof folk group we called 'The New Crispy Critters,' a takeoff on the then-popular New Christy Minstrels. The photograph displayed above is of The New Crispy Critters performing in St. Catharines, Ontario, in 1962 or so. The skinny blond guy on the far right is yours truly.
Some people are surprised when I speak of religion or anything remotely religious. I guess gospel music would fall somewhere in that category. I am a libertarian, philosophically, and libertarians, you see, are supposed to be atheists. Vox Day calls himself a Christian Libertarian, but many people would consider that to be oxymoronic.
I don't. I don't profess to be Christian, although I grew up in a very religious Pentecostal family, but I am definitely not atheist. Am I a waffler, am I wishy-washy because I won't take a stance? I don't think so. I have considered the issue for many years, in fact since I was eleven years old, and my position is that I simply don't know and that, in fact, the issue is unknowable. I am agnostic. Any belief, for or against, boils down to faith, either faith that there is a God and that he rules us, or faith that there is no God and that we are on our own. I don't want to get into a long and elaborate discussion on religion here, but I think that taking a definitive position either way is presumptuous. I think that everyone should think and believe what they wish. Further, I believe that thinking what they wish is part of their natural right to be alive, to own their body and mind, and to enjoy without impediment, the fruits of their labour. Is it realistic then, not to include the right to direct their minds and thoughts where they wish? As long as what they think and believe does not threaten me in a real way, none of this should be any concern of mine.
I am not suggesting that no-one consider the issue at all, based on the notion that if the answer is unknowable, why waste any time on it. No, we humans are (or should be) seekers of truth. We need to search for answers, to debate every issue, to seek meaning. I have read all of the arguments for and against God and I still say that the truth is unknowable. As George Harrison opined once in a song, "The Answer's at the End." At the expiration of our time on earth, we will either discover the truth or be beyond caring.
What gets me is the zeal with which some people attack Christianity. Atheists often single out Christian targets while ignoring religious markers, symbols and references of Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc. I find that fact quite curious, because 'zeal' is most often associated with religion. There is religious zeal, there are religious zealots, we read and hear in the media. I don't remember reading or hearing about atheistic zeal or atheist zealots. Why is that? Much of the atheistic writing and broadcasting I have experienced over the years (I am listening to an atheistic podcast as I type this) has been as evangelical as anything I might have encountered while attending church as a youngster. Atheists seek converts as actively as any theists or other religious groups. Atheists seek enforcing or accommodating legislation as much as any other group in our society might. They are, in fact, acting very much like religious proselytizers, aren't they?
I don't care where, or whether anyone worships. I don't want to be forced to worship at the shrine of some state-approved (or enforced) god any more than I want to be told that I can't worship at all.
Our Judao-Christian heritage has done very well by us. Let's acknowledge the fact and leave everyone alone to worship or not, as they themselves wish, unless it gets to the point where they use explosives or guns as persuaders to either worship or else, or don't worship or else. I don't know of any Christians doing that these days, do you?
So, I may be agnostic and you may be Christian and your neighbour may be Islamic and your brother-in-law may be an atheist. Who cares? All I ask is that the fervid atheist who doesn't want to be exposed to Christian thought and imagery, keep his proselytizing to himself in the same spirit. Unless we are having a well-lubricated and friendly discussion, of course, and we all agree that we are free to express our opinions. After all, voluntary discourse is a great thing. If we listen, we might learn something. And if we learn something, we might change our mind. And if we change our mind, we might convert our thinking. An agnostic or an atheist might become Christian. A Christian might become atheist. Or, no-one will change their thinking or belief system at all. But everyone will have a good time, if it is all done voluntarily and in a spirit of friendship.
See what happens when I hear some gospel music? I guess all that toe-tapping jarred some synapses in my brain and here, on my blog, you see the result as I ramble on about at least a facet or two about the meaning of life.
So, should I stay away from gospel performances in the future? I hope not. I had a great time, and so would you, whatever your religious or philosophical background.