Richard Dawkins on the beauty of music

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Written By: Chris Johnson – YouTube
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  1. There’s no Irony in liking something that is religious – all music and art were made by people who expressed great emotion and creativity. The reason it was made or the motivation for making it is irrelevant. Beauty and talent can be appreciated by all people and No one need believe anything first to see its beauty and appreciate the skills of the Musician/ Artist /Architect etc.
    The article points out ignorance on the part of the religious person, which is all part of their mis-informed view of Athieists and humankind in general – Its laughable but its actually very sad…

    • In reply to #1 by Light Wave:

      There’s no Irony in liking something that is religious – all music and art were made by people who expressed great emotion and creativity. The reason it was made or the motivation for making it is irrelevant. Beauty and talent can be appreciated by all people and No one need believe anything first t…

      But it isn’t just religious people who can be so irrational unfortunately. I’ve had plenty of atheists on this site tell me that religion never inspired anything of value at all and when you mention things like the Bach passion or some of the great literature Prof. Dawkins mentions they aren’t convinced. I was thinking about the 8 CDs I would want to have with me. It would be a different list every day but here is what I would take today:

      1. Charles Mingus. Mingus Ah Ha.

      2. Beethoven Symphony number 9

      3. Rory Gallagher. Photo Finish.

      4. Allman Brothers. Live at the Fillmore.

      5. Hovhannes Symphony #3

      6. Madredeus (Portugese pop group) Antologia

      7. Brahms Symphony #1

      8. Rolling Stones Beggars Banquet.

      • In reply to #2 by Red Dog:

        I’ve had plenty of atheists on this site tell me that religion never inspired anything of value at all and when you mention things like the Bach passion or some of the great literature Prof. Dawkins mentions they aren’t convinced.

        Religion doesn’t inspire anything, people do.

    • In reply to #3 by phil rimmer:

      Ah, the dreadful Sue Lawley. She drained most of the fun out of the program,

      Now Kirsty Young…. Always insightful, always intelligent, warm, wise and witty.

      I’m 100% in agreement with you there, Phil.

  2. Although the libretto makes about as much (or little) sense as the book it was based upon, I’ve always enjoyed the score of “Jesus Christ Superstar.” Those tunes were Andrew Lloyd Weber’s finest moment, and he never topped them. Songs like “Everything’s Alright,” with it’s cool 5/4 time signature, and “Heaven On Their Minds,” with it’s exotic chord changes, are just as enjoyable as instrumentals as they are with vocals.

  3. It seems like god has some good tunes as well as the devil! For example I think Berlioz’ requiem simply staggering and Bruckner’s music wonderful and also I think Wagner wrote some ‘divine’ stuff. Just listen to the final bars of Gotterdammerung! I consider myself an ‘artistic atheist’ but I realize that music is a very personal experience.

  4. Dear Richard,

    I know you must get tired of this stuff but thank you for what you do. I think you’re reaching people by staying true to yourself in this way. I was already an atheist when I heard about you, but upon hearing about you and looking you up, and then going to hear you speak, well, I can say you wowed me with your passion and your spirit and your wit and most especially your kind and gentle nature.

    Thank you for continuing to put up with this nonsense. You’re making the world a better and safer place for us to be non-believers. And, we appreciate it!

  5. If scientists like Dawkins took art a little more seriously, thought about it a little more seriously, just for a second, they could easily avoid saying silly things like, “its about the passion of Jesus”, when talking about a work of art. If you analyze art and the aesthetic experience, literal interpretations of “what it’s about” fall apart as irrelevancies. There are plenty of crucifixions out there, but only a few of them move us greatly as art, qua art… move the atheist as well as the theist. And it is for reasons that are most emphatically NOT about the passion of Jesus, or whatever the “subject” of the piece might be, that the art in question has the universal power to affect humans of any or no faith: it is because of our common human aesthetic sense.

    V.S Ramachandran, the famed neuroscientist, has done some interesting work in the field of neuro-aesthetics, and as an artist, I hope more scientists take up the field of inquiry with some seriousness.

    • In reply to #12 by McCourt:

      If scientists like Dawkins took art a little more seriously, thought about it a little more seriously, just for a second, they could easily avoid saying silly things like, “its about the passion of Jesus”, when talking about a work of art. If you analyze art and the aesthetic experience…

      You’re right. Theologians have been ‘restoring’ secular art into their myth for ages… Luke is not a Skywalker, no, he’s Christ (especially with those missing episodes of his boyhood).

      There are non-religious archetypes that we should be using to describe our art history. Richard Dawkins’ books are full of those, so perhaps we are being a wee bit unfair.

  6. In reply to McCourt No 12, I think you are doing Mr. Dawkins a disservice. He was simply explaining what the piece is about. Also I think you are being a bit optimistic about ‘common human aesthetic sense’. Cultural influences seem to affect our reactions to ‘art’ compared to anything possibly innate. I agree though that more work needs to be done in this sphere.

  7. I find myself completely agreeing with Richard’s view. All art is the work of human beings, in Bach’s case a man. Wherever these artists derive their inspiration from, they remain human beings. We all know that Banquo’s Ghost is fictional, but does that make him any less scary to MacBeth or to the audience? I think not.

    We all know that Brian’s passion on the cross is fictional, but does that make it any less funny ?

  8. I really like the music of Anton Bruckner. So what if he was a devout Catholic? No one’s perfect. Anyway, even if his music was inspired by his faith, it doesn’t stop one from appreciating and enjoying the music – it certainly doesn’t make any difference to me. And that goes for any kind of art. Still, someone on Amazon said you cannot possibly appreciate his music unless you were Catholic. Twit.

    • In reply to #15 by I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing:

      Still, someone on Amazon said you cannot possibly appreciate his music unless you were Catholic. Twit.

      Yep, twit alright. By that morons logic, I must be a pedophile for enjoying the sounds of Gary Glitter during my youth during the seventies.

      • In reply to #17 by Ignorant Amos:

        In reply to #15 by I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing:

        Still, someone on Amazon said you cannot possibly appreciate his music unless you were Catholic. Twit.

        Yep, twit alright. By that morons logic, I must be a pedophile for enjoying the sounds of Gary Glitter during my youth during the seventie…

        Glitter Bomb! 12 points!

  9. One of my favourite.. (grr yes idiotic and unusable US spellchecker that is correct) TV shows in recent years was Pillars of The Earth. A friend said to me once.. “but that’s about churches and stuff?”. So I know exactly what Richard means here. Dealing with other peoples silliness (and US spellcheckers) is very annoying.
    Btw. Is it actually impossible to have two versions of colour and favourite in the memory of an online spellchecker? I think not. I think it’s a conspiracy by the peanut butter and jelly sandwich spellchecker company and, what have they got against the letter U anyway that’s what I’d like to know; after all Jesus has a U in it. Yes, doesn’t it Americans, think about that the next time you betray the holy U of Jesus. Spelling colour without a U is a bit like worshipping Satan.

  10. I think that music is a very important part of many people’s lives as it is for me. I listen to many different kinds of music and I have a couple Bluegrass religious songs that I still enjoy even though I’ve become atheist. My mother’s favorite (The Country Gentleman’s “God’s coloring book”) is one of my favorites also. I think that music can and does play an important role in waking people up to the untruths of religion. Such a song woke me up and I wonder if I had never heard it, would I be an atheist today? The song I heard on the radio was “Dear God” by XTC and was the only time I ever heard it on the radio. I assume that the station received hate phone calls and mail and decided to never play it again. Since then I have found some other songs that make me comfortable to be an atheist today living among so many religious people. Here are a few more good songs that you may enjoy.
    Tim Minchin – “The Good Book”, pretty much anything by Tim is excellent.
    Stephen Lynch – “Beelz”, funny song about the devil.
    Voltaire – “God thinks”.

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