Atheist Jaclyn Glenn rewrote “Amazing Grace” and performed it (HT Hemant Mehta):
In this instance, I really don't find the new song at all appealing (lyrically speaking, I mean – Glenn sings nicely). I have no objection to “Amazing Grace” being rewritten. And I don't always disagree with atheists, even about their criticism of Christianity. But in this case, the message of the song overall, such as the suggestion that because people have science, all fear vanishes, all tendency towards hatred or abuse disappears, is simply not at all persuasive. Picking the worst anti-science and anti-rational examples and using them as the target standing in for “religion” is taking the easy shots, and avoiding the more challenging ones. Anyone can do that with any worldview.
I actually found myself talking about this very topic at a party yesterday evening. When asked what I think of the “new atheists” I said that I prefer the “old atheists.” The ones who can say “I think Christianity has contributed some great music and some important values to the world, and I still don't think the God they depict exists” are a serious challenge, while those who paint with broader strokes and say things like “religion poisons everything” are easier to dismiss.
In church today, I'll be involved in a slightly modified but still fairly traditional rendition of “Amazing Grace.” But are there other versions, perhaps with significantly modified lyrics, which neither simply reproduce the old nor satirize it in an uncharitable and lyrically unsatisfying way? And if we broaden beyond this one hymn, would anyone – religious or atheist – really choose the atheist “Amazing Science” over something like this?
Below I'll share another song, a blast from the past, that relates to another topic that came up in my conversation yesterday. One of my favorite contributions to the forthcoming book Time and Relative Dimensions in Faith: Religion and Doctor Who is about the notion of endless life, using Doctor Who to challenge the common religious notion that subjective life without end is something appealing. And as musical accompaniment to your reflection on that topic, here's Alphaville's “Forever Young”: