The Atheists Who Sing Hymns

Many atheists will tell you that, even though they don’t go to church anymore, they still miss the music. In New York, a group of atheists and agnostics (and a few straggling theists) are part of a group called the Renaissance Street Singers that offer public performances of religious music for the sole reason that they just love the pieces:

The Renaissance Street Singers have been performing sacred music in public spaces for 40 years. On city sidewalks, in train stations, in public parks — anywhere they can find an audience. But these singers insist that their mission is not a religious one. The group consists mostly of self-described atheists who nonetheless share a deep reverence for the hymns, psalms and motets of the 16th century.

“It’s simple, un-gussied music,” says John Hetland, founder and director of the Renaissance Street Singers. “It’s not anything showy. It’s just beautiful music.”

“I like to say that for an atheist and a Jew, I spend a lot time singing about Jesus,” says Nancy Mandel, who’s been singing with the group since the mid-’70s. “If I don’t believe the actual things that are being said in the words, it’s the act of singing together itself which is the most important meaningful thing — without which the rest of this couldn’t happen.”

You can check out their singing schedule here.

(via National Public Radio)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.


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