Ex-Christian Musician Says Atheism is About Embracing Life, Not Hating Christianity

This week, NPR published a profile of Taylor Muse, the leader of an Austin-based indie rock band that got their start when they left Christianity. Now, members of Quiet Company pride themselves on music that encourages questioning, or even rejecting, faith and opting for a life of Humanism instead.

Taylor Muse and Quiet Company

Muse, 31, told NPR his adolescence revolved around his Southern Baptist church in Texas. But after he moved away, got married, and discovered Kurt Vonnegut, among other big life changes, he realized he couldn’t participate in Christianity anymore.

“Eventually, I came home from work one day and just told my wife, ‘I think I’m having a little bit of a crisis of faith. I just realized today that I can’t make a case for Christianity that would convince myself,’” he says.

After years of playing in Christian bands, Muse’s realization brought him to Quiet Company, where he and fellow atheist bandmates could write music about life after faith and connect with greater atheist communities. In 2011, they released We Are All Where We Belong, an album about a young man rejecting his religion, and last year they took home 10 honors from the Austin Music Awards.

The refrain from the album title — “where we belong” — is at the heart of Muse’s problem with Christian theology. He says he was taught from the Bible that good Christians don’t store up treasures on earth: They’re supposed to store up treasures in heaven.

“They’re always making the statement, ‘This is not your home, this is not where you belong,’” Muse says. “I wanted to make a record that said, ‘No, actually, this is where you belong. This is your one chance to make your life into what you want it to be. This is your one chance to make the world what you think it can be.’”

According to humanist chaplain and author Greg Epstein, Quiet Company’s music is particularly resounding for atheists, but carries a message universal enough for anyone to appreciate.

Epstein says what Quiet Company did is emblematic of the modern humanist movement, which is not about railing against organized religion, but about being good people and affirming life.

“It’s not an album decrying God,” Epstein says. “It’s an album about what it means to live life that happens to be from the perspective of somebody who knows who he is, and happens to be a humanist and an atheist.”

Indeed, Muse told NPR he doesn’t want to be pigeonholed as an “atheist rocker,” even though much of the band’s following is in atheist communities. He openly challenges the stereotype that atheism is all about hating religion, and he says his music reflects his diversity of opinions on the subject — and that he has other things to say, too.

“At the end of the day, what we’re setting out to be is everyone’s new favorite rock band,” he says. “We’re not trying to be ‘the atheist band.’ We’re not trying to be the band that hates Christianity. I wrote 15 songs about atheism. And I said everything I wanted to say.”

I had admittedly never heard of these guys before the NPR piece, but their music, ideals, and general awesomeness seem like things I could easily get behind. I’m sure lots of “favorite rock bands” out there are comprised mostly of atheists, even if they don’t say so out loud. This group is all the cooler for standing up and saying it.

About Camille Beredjick

Camille is a twentysomething working in the LGBT nonprofit industry. She runs an LGBT news blog at gaywrites.org.

  • MineApostasy

    Glad to see them getting press, and also very happy to see one of the messages that I feel most missed by our theist interlocutors getting recognition as well.

  • klarsp

    They were awesome at the last American Atheist convention!

  • Pofarmer

    Ya know what, they’ve got a point, and I need to admit, I have a hate problem. I fuckin HATE the Catholic Church. Hate it. Hate how it makes people hate others who are different. I hate how in the name of “schools” it teaches children a reality that bears no resemblance to the reality we actually live in. I hate how it holds itself up, aloof and untouchable. I hate it’s arrogance, it’s intolerance, it’s cruelty, it’s judgement, it’s nonsense, and it’s sense of entitlement that it has the right, no the duty, to push it’s bullshit on the masses even if it knows it’s wrong on the facts and the science of the issue. Dogma comes before truth, faith before reason, suspicion before tolerance, submission before love. I fucking HATE it.

    • joey_in_NC

      I fuckin HATE the Catholic Church.

      That must mean you “fuckin HATE” the people who are willing members of the Catholic Church, correct?

      So you must “fuckin HATE” me.

      • Guest

        Hate the dogma and the lies, not the person…

        • Neko

          In the RCC, the Church is the “people of God,” not just the hierarchy and the teaching authority.

          • http://batman-news.com 3lemenope

            In a modern nation-state, the nation is the people as well as the government. It does not necessarily (or even usually) follow that the people of a nation are directly responsible for the individual decisions of their government, because any given individuals’ power to affect those decisions is highly attenuated.

            No one Catholic, up to and including the Pope, can singlehandedly change those things about the RCC that are properly criticized and condemned. Institutions and bureaucracies are inherently conservative just due to inertia, and it requires high degrees of institutional buy-in at many levels of the bureaucracy to affect positive lasting change. One of the things for which I think the church is most properly criticized is that the hierarchy pays lip-service to the notion that the whole congregation is the Church, while strenuously not listening to them at all.

            • Neko

              Couldn’t agree with you more.

            • Pofarmer

              Not only that, but the hierarchy uses the numbers of the folks in the pews as reasons that it’s dogma is popular, even when those in the pews don’t agree. Birth control is a PRIME example. Some 90% of Catholics have used some form of artificial contraception, yet the Church keeps on teaching how horrible it is. Then there’s the hypocrisy of it’s anti-abortion stance. They recently concluded a study in St. Louis with, I think, 9000 young girls. Where they were given their choice of free birth control and instruction on how to us it, and monitored, I think, in it’s use. Guess what, the rate of teen pregnancy went from a National Average of 34 per 1000 to 6.3 per 1000. Abortions went from around 20 per 1000 in that area to around 5 per 1000. The results are OBVIOUS and yet they are assiduously ignored by the oh so pro-life Church. Brain washed idiots.

              • Neko

                Not only that, but the hierarchy uses the numbers of the folks in the pews as reasons that it’s dogma is popular, even when those in the pews don’t agree.

                Does it make that assertion? I’m unaware of it. My impression is that the hierarchy couldn’t care less about the credibility of its dogma with the faithful. Its overriding concern, at least until Francis, appeared to be maintenance of its claim to infallibility.

                • Pofarmer

                  Think about the Health care battle, where it claims that it has the right to not cover birth control in the name of all Catholics.

                • Neko

                  No disagreement with you there; I’m just not aware that the Church cites pewsitters as evidence of the popularity of its dogma. That would be a strange argument for the Church to make, considering the rush for the exits since the scandals hit.

                • Pofarmer

                  Not the popularith of it’s dogma. It argues it’s sheer numbers as a reason to push it’s agenda. See how many people believe X, when a great many people might not believe it at all.

                • Neko

                  We seem to be talking about different things. I’m still dubious that the hierarchy uses the size of the Church to justify its agenda. The hierarchy is well aware there is no theological unity among Catholics, especially among American Catholics, who are largely indifferent to edicts from the Vatican. And I thought the official reason the Church could claim a position for Catholics is because of its supposed mandate from Jesus and guidance from the Holy Spirit. By the way its raw numbers include every baptized Catholic, even such as me, an atheist who left the Church decades ago.

                  But no need to put too fine a point on it. You’re right that the hierarchy pretty much ignores the views of progressive Catholics while claiming to speak for the whole Church. At least the progressives in the US get revenge at the ballot box.

      • http://batman-news.com 3lemenope

        If a person hates an institution, it does not follow that a person necessarily hates any (much less all) members of that institution. They may simply lament the institution’s bad effects and think of most of its members as misguided.

        • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

          So true. I hate Christianity (and most other religion as well). I don’t hate any Christians. I hate the modern Republican Party. I don’t hate any Republicans (okay… maybe a few).

          Hating a belief system is entirely different from hating people who subscribe to that belief system.

          • joey_in_NC

            Hating a belief system is entirely different from hating people who subscribe to that belief system.

            I agree with you if that’s what he actually meant. It’s similar to saying that one can hate the sin and not hate the sinner who engages in that sin, correct?

            • http://batman-news.com 3lemenope

              Same basic principle. In the end, all it comes down to is sincerity; some people truly believe in the division between organization (or category) and constituent, while others have more difficulty maintaining that distinction, especially when regarding issues that stir emotion or seem to demand moral judgment. It gets messier when the organization or category at issue has a significant component that is not volitional. You don’t, for example, control which country you are born in, and there is a pretty steep opportunity cost for changing one’s citizenship. You don’t for the most part have any control over who you are sexually attracted to, and there is a steep psychological cost to attempting to pretend or act otherwise.

              • joey_in_NC

                Same basic principle.

                I agree that hating a belief system doesn’t necessarily mean hating the person holding that belief system. But what Pofarmer actually thinks is still not apparent.

                But I also must thank you and C Peterson for demonstrating that the Church doesn’t necessarily “hate gays” just because the Church considers homosexuality a sin.

                • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

                  I would argue that simply considering homosexuality to be a sin is effectively the same as hating gays. Homosexuality isn’t a chosen behavior. It has nothing to do with morals by any reasonable definition. It’s simply a description of an innate sexuality, no different from heterosexuality or the range in between.

                  Would you be comfortable with the Church’s position of considering being black a sin, but not hating blacks? I sure wouldn’t be. Their choice to consider an innate, normal characteristic of humans as “sinful” has led to immense suffering. Pragmatically, that is hate.

                • http://batman-news.com 3lemenope

                  I personally thought that Pofarmer articulated his frustrations with the RCC in a pretty clear and detailed manner.

                  Now, I think it perfectly possible for a person to sincerely believe in the “hate the sinner but not the sin” rubric. I also think that the hierarchy of an organization can set up a standing interpretation of how to deal with sin or its analogous conceptual counterparts which either makes this attitude being sincere more or less likely. The hierarchy of the RCC has earned for itself several gold stars in the task of making it harder for Catholic members to be sincere about the division, due to its compulsive need to interfere at a legal level with the civil rights and privileges of those people who are not members of the Church. So it may be jumping to conclusions to say of any one Catholic that they are hypocrites for endorsing the old formula regarding sin and sinner, but it is rather easier to make the same judgment about the institution itself.

            • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

              I wouldn’t say they’re the same at all. Of course, I don’t believe in the concept of sin, so the closest I could come would be hating the bad deed without hating the one who does the bad deed. But bad deeds are justifiable grounds for hating somebody.

              No belief system equates to bad deeds. Hating people for beliefs is very different than hating them for actions.

        • Regina Universe

          Yes but that logical thinking wouldn’t allow anyone to hijack the author’s point and create sensationalist self-pity.

      • Artor

        Are you the Catholic Church? No. Do you support it and all it’s racist, sexist, pedophilic, xenophobic, anti-human, anti-life policies? Then of course you are hated along with it. Are you an independent being who believes in values like kindness and respect for your fellow humans, despite being Catholic? Then no, he wasn’t talking about you, just the Church.

        • joey_in_NC

          Do you support it and all it’s racist, sexist, pedophilic, xenophobic, anti-human, anti-life policies? Then of course you are hated along with it.

          First of all, I don’t think Catholic beliefs/doctrine are any of those things. If I did, I obviously wouldn’t be Catholic. But I do accept all of the Church’s doctrine. So according to you, I am hated along with it. So you agree with what I said.

          • Artor

            “But I do agree with all the of the Church’s doctrine…” is kind of vague. Do you agree with the church’s practice of protecting pedophiles? How about their opposition to using birth control or condoms, especially in places like Africa? What do you think of the church’s support for Hitler in WWII? And their choice to excommunicate doctors & nuns who performed an abortion on a young girl, but not the father who raped her? If this is the church you support, then yes, you are to be hated by all decent, compassionate human beings.

          • Regina Universe

            Joey, you should read into the recent history of the church concerning Africa and condom promotion, the RCC’s history of pedophilia and the systematic covering up of those crimes.

      • Pofarmer

        Did I mention that I hate how it’s followers don’t learn to disconnect themselves from the Church? It’s an affront to reason, thinking that an individual isn’t separate from an entity they ostensibly belong to.

        • joey_in_NC

          Did I mention that I hate how it’s followers don’t learn to disconnect themselves from the Church?

          Are you confirming that you hate me, a willing member of the Catholic Church?

          • jon

            Joey if you can’t seperate belief from personthen thats your freakin problem

          • islandbrewer

            I think you have a reading comprehension problem, or maybe suffer from hyperdefensive chiponyourshoulderitis. Po clearly did not say anything about hating Catholics particularly. He may, however, be beginning to hate you if continue to misconstrue his words like that. Is that what you’re trying to accomplish – like some sort of self-fulfilling prophesy? Making yourself so unlikeable you can crow with pride, “See?! You hate me!” ?

          • Pofarmer

            If you unthinkingly promote the agenda and policies of the Church. If you can’t understand that, in a Christian context, we are ALL Gods creatures, or in a humanist context that we’re all in this together. If you can’t understand that time and time and time again it’s been demonstrated that the Catholic Church has not lock on truth, or morality, then, I Pity more than hate you. I hate the institution that shut your mind.

      • jon

        Joey, that’s the fallacy of division

  • PrimateZero

    Yeah that Kurt Vonnegut, it was him and George Carlin that sent me on my path to non belief. Dawkins and Hitchens just solidified it…. them and Christians.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke, TOWAN

    i sort of don’t like the slight tone of apology in what he said, but meh. it’s an NPR piece and i hardly expect them to do better. but as a person who used to wait tables in a popular band bar, my advice is that he should never diss his fans, no matter why they choose to follow.

    anyone can be the Band of the Moment and have their 15mins. but ask aging performers. they very best thing you can have as an artist are fans who don’t come and go with the whim of fashion, but instead follow you for years and years and come to all your shows, no matter how small. atheists can be really focused people in their cause. these guys could be looking at a lifetime of guaranteed gigs at atheist gatherings, which are only going to grow and spread over time.

    off topic: so, beards on men are back? i’m seeing them all over these days.

  • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

    I listened to the interview, and I never heard him say that atheism is about embracing life, or about not hating Christianity. He was explicit in basing those things on his humanist views.

    He’s an atheist. He’s an anti-Christian. He’s a humanist. And he actually seems to understand the distinction between these things (unlike Robert Siegel, who should be ashamed of himself for a couple of his grossly inaccurate comments).

    Don’t conflate atheism with humanism. It hurts us all.