[Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by AJ Johnson. Raised Baptist in the Bible Belt, she became an atheist after learning about evolution and the immoral verses in the Bible. She’s a former development director of American Atheists and currently serves on the board of Recovering from Religion and as the development adviser for Black Atheists of America, as well as playing bass guitar in her spare time. Follow her on Twitter, or read her blog, Happiest Atheist.]
Completing the Movement
I think including cultural elements, like music and art, will make the Movement more attractive from the outside. These things make us seem more well-rounded – like there is something for everyone. We can’t expect everyone to like listening to speeches as their activism. Some people are drawn to art as a medium for their nonreligious statement, and we aren’t doing a good job accommodating them.
Conventions and talks are fantastic, don’t get me wrong. In fact, I LOVE giving speeches, and hardly pass up an opportunity to speak to a group. I enjoy watching them, too! However, we are already pigeonholed by our opponents (and possibly allies) as being stodgy, old, professorial types. Even though that is not true, there are diminishing returns for the Movement’s growth if we only focus on speeches and do not do a better job of promoting our artistic side – soon.
Atheists in Music
Recently, I StumbledUpon a Wikipedia “Atheists in Music” list. It always excites me to see lists of atheists in the mainstream! Last March, Reason Rally was a HUGE success! I think that was, in part, because it involved music, including some of my favorite atheist artists! People that came out to see Bad Religion may not have come to see a speech from Richard Dawkins – and vice versa. By expanding our definition of acceptable entertainment at secular gatherings, we also expand our scope and improve our ability to acquire new activists.
So, the music list is pretty big – but very incomplete. For example, I’d have included R&B singer John Legend on the list for his interview with Big Think. On that note, I’ll also say that there are not many people of color on the list (at least not many I recognized). I wonder if this is because there are not many atheists of color that are musicians? Or if it is because these artists rely more heavily on more religious demographics (African Americans, Hispanics, etc.) for their revenue?
Atheists in Comedy
The good news is that there are a lot of great musical artists, not to mention visual and performing artists, that are nonbelievers! If we were to compile a COMPLETE list of atheist comedians, it would probably be infinite! Clearly, this list is not complete… Paul Provenza, a fantastic comedian (& friend), isn’t even on there — and he hosted Reason Rally!
No matter their field, these lists show that there are celebrities that (assuming this lists are correct) we can point to and say – “Hey! You know Billy Joel? Frank Zappa? Marilyn Manson? They’re all atheists, too.”
Here are some videos from atheist musicians that I really like. It’s only a few of my favorites, but it should get you started.
Greydon Square – Stockholm Syndrome
Shelley Segal – Apocalyptic Love Song (for Christopher Hitchens)
Tim Minchin – Storm **10 mins**
Gary Stockdale – Easier
I would love to see more godless music out there – within the Movement and outside of it! I think a small tour or annual festival is WAY overdue. So, if anyone is interested, and looking for a manager/organizer, I’d be all over it!! Seriously.
Who are some of your favorite godless musicians?
Would you buy tickets to my Atheist Music Tour?