As I write, I am listening to the John Elliot Gardner version of St. John's Passion by Bach. Now, as it is X-Mess today (12/25/08), it might be asked, what is an atheist listening to Christian music on Christmas Day? And, why am I, an atheist, playing an Easter liturgical work, performed by Bach at Leipzig on Good Fridays? It's not enough I'm listening to a work befitting another occasion, placing Jebus's death before his birth as it were, it might be seen the height of hypocrisy for a non-believer to sit enjoying a work of spiritual inspiration.
Aha! It is a mistake to think that just because a person is irreligious, he or she cannot be spiritual nevertheless. Other atheists, including Harris and Hitchens, Dawkins and others, have ably explained why it is possible for me to experience a union with humanity during a religious festival in October in Cuetzalan, Mexico, but come home just as convinced as ever that Jebus, too, evolved from forms much lower than apes and that the evidence against the possibility of a supreme being are overwhelmingly countered by more logical, sane arguments against his or her factual authenticity.
Whether one plays Easter choral works at Easter or at X-Mess (as I've called it for ages, now) makes absolutely no difference; not speaking German, I have no idea what the Monteverdi Choir is singing about, I only know that I regard choral music as sublime. And, you know, they don't get any more sublimer than Gardner's Bach. Even my old dog, Yemaya, knew the difference between Metallica and classical music; both she and I believe that the former is Dionysian and repetative, while the latter hath charms to sooth the savage breast. When I listen to loud popular music I think of poor Caliban, hearing thousands of jangly sounds in the night.
And when you think about it, if Jebus is Alpha and Omega, when you reach the latter, you are by very reason alone planted firmly in the former. Here was a dude born for one thing and one thing only: death. In the Martin Scorsese movie (from ex-Calvinist screewriter Paul Schrader and novelist Nikos Kazantsakis), The Last Temptation of Christ, Saul-Paul tells Jebus "You're worth nothing to us alive. You're dead." That Kazantsakis was a heretic is beyond question, but his canonical satire is pure Gnostic. The more outre sects actually believed Jebus survived the Crucifixion and wandered the earth for many years. Some say he is buried in Srinagar.
Now, that would be exciting if true. But the religious boobs came along and poisoned things: today, Srinigar is the center of one of the world's most war-torn regions, as hot a bed of murderous sectarian violence as the Gaza. And it's the same old conflict. The conflict between Hindus and Muslims (or, in Palestine, Jews and Muslims). The grave of the Messiah in Srinagar is a place of pilgrimage for all three faiths. This makes it as much a symbol of religious strife as the Temple Mount of the Dome of the Rock.
Praise God and pass the ammunition. Any thug can cherry pick scripture and find passages justifying the most grotesque and macabre treatment of others whose god you personally dislike. Peace on earth is a phantom so long as we are perpetually accompanied by the two children huddled under the robes of Christmas Present in Dickens' Carol: Ignorance and Want. Ignorance of what religion is and such social forces as unemployment and famine. If the Vatican is so adamant about feeding the hungry, why doesn't it sell off its treasury of great art and its gold reserves?
In a few hours I will eat turkey with friends who will say a prayer. I must go along, of course, falling short of saying Amen, because although I agree with the well-wishings of the pious person intoning the inauguration of the table dome, I do not agree my message will be heard by "God." I can be as spiritual as I wish without going to a church, cathedral, synagogue or mosque.