Glorifying God with Mozart, Vivaldi, and Robertson


Antonio Vivaldi


Driving alone, just now, from Bountiful, Utah, to Orem, I was pleased to turn KBYU-FM on to a performance of Mozart’s beautiful Ave Verum Corpus.


That was followed, to my delight, with Antonio Vivaldi’s Gloria.  Soon, I had the volume up full bore, and I was belting out not only the bass part but, when the basses weren’t singing, some of the instrumental portions.  It got rough at a few places, but, on the whole, I still remember it well.


Then came the LDS composer Leroy Robertson’s wonderful setting of the Lord’s Prayer.  I joined on that one, too.  Probably to the entertainment of others on the road.


The late Christopher Hitchens liked to say that “religion poisons everything.”


In my judgment, he couldn’t have been more wrong.


Religion surely didn’t poison classical music.



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  • Stephen Smoot

    You’ve got it all wrong, Dan. You see, these classical masters (and others like them such as Handel and Haydn and Bach) were, like Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s later anti-Nazi efforts, inspired by what Hitchens calls a “vague humanism.” So, yes, religion does poison everything. Anything that’s virtuous, lovely, of good report, or praiseworthy comes only from non-religious people. The only thing we theists are able to produce are gentile mutilations and jihad.

  • Brock Lesnar

    Dan wrote: “Religion surely didn’t poison classical music.”

    Has religion poisoned rap music? You be the judge.

    I could easily picture a young Dan cruising down state street in his low rider, bass cranked up, singing this song:

    • kiwi57

      Two points:
      1) “rap music” is an oxymoron.
      2) Any change would be an improvement.

    • JohnH2

      Can’t say that the music is great, but as far as it goes I don’t think we should knock on the attempt. This attempt to preach to a particular set of people is likely quite a bit more effective at changing lives than knocking on doors or preaching hellfire would be.

  • mike

    Where I live, in Cleveland, we have a wonderful classical music tradition. Many consider the Cleveland Orchestra to be the nation’s finest. But if you don’t want to spend the money or can’t get tickets to Severance Hall, there is a bevy of professional, smaller orchestras, quartets, and soloists who perform throughout the city at no cost to attendees. These performances are always at local churches that open their doors to the community. Whenever I attend these concerts, that quote from Hitchens comes to mind.

    • DanielPeterson

      Cleveland is, indeed, blessed with classical music.

      Which, I suppose, means blighted — to that extent, at least — by religion.

      Hitchens’s claim was transparently absurd.

      • mike

        I am still waiting for our local atheist organizations to bring free classical concerts to the public.

        • DanielPeterson

          When they do, I hope they’ll concentrate on the great atheist chorales and oratorios of the baroque period.

          • mike

            Oh, come now. You can regularly hear such music at your local New Atheists’ soup kitchen, adoption agency, homeless shelter, day care center, hospital, and international aid office.

          • palerobber

            high five, brother!
            and where are all the atheist illuminated manuscripts and stained glass art, amirite?
            HAR HAR HAR

          • palerobber

            more likely Bartok, Bizet, and Berlioz, just to name a few.

  • palerobber

    while i don’t agree with Hitchen, the reason Mozart and Vivaldi wrote on religious themes is because that’s what they were paid to do (in this specific case, by chorister Anton Stoll and by the Ospedale della Pietà respectively). religion certainly did not poison these works, but niether did it inspire them — money did.

    • DanielPeterson

      I wouldn’t be comfortable drawing that absolute distinction.

      Jewish and Christian clergy are typically paid, but I wouldn’t conclude from that fact that money, rather than religion, inspires their service and their sermons.