Secular Rock and Religious Roll

Get ready to rock America: Deliverance from the forces of darkness and superstition is at hand.  No, I’m not talking about the Republicans being on vacation.

I’m talking about the fact that the “Rock Beyond Belief” concert at Fort Bragg is going to happen sometime in March of next year.  Hooah!

In its tireless quest to appear newsworthy, the headline-chasing Center for Inquiry has spotted another star to hitch its galumping wagon to.  Here’s the Flash:

The secular festival Rock Beyond Belief will now cometo fruition at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, March 31, 2012, after military authorities there reversed course and approved the event that will feature an array of music and speakers including famed evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins.

The Rock Beyond Belief event was planned in response to Fort Bragg’s sponsorship,endorsement, and overwhelming support of the Billy Graham EvangelicalAssociation’s Christian evangelical concert, called Rock the Fort, held last year. When secularists around the country protested the government’s support of this event and requested that it be canceled, officials at Fort Bragg justified their support by stating the same level of support would be provided to anyone who organized a similar event.

That pledge proved to be untrue when Fort Bragg officials, led by garrison commander Col. Stephen J. Sicinski, initially denied Rock Beyond Belief organizers the use of an outdoor venue and financial support. The Center for Inquiry (CFI) previously condemned those discriminatory actions as both an outrageous misuse of power and potentially illegal, and applauds the base’s decision to approve and support Rock Beyond Belief.

Speaking only for myself, I can’t find the drama here, the Superman moment where America wins.

For one thing, there is an actual musical genre called Christian rock and it wouldn’t surprise me if some soldiers liked it. Including soldiers who weren’t Christians.   Given low wages and precious few other rewards for fighting two wars that nobody wants and the nation can’t afford, let ’em have what they like as long as they don’t scare the horses–the way they did at Abu Ghraib.

But othwerwise, as far as I know, rock is rock, and I don’t know that adding Richard Dawkins to the mix (even if he wears tight jeans and has his nose pierced for the occasion) creates a new genre called secular rock.

I always thought “secular” was taken for granted for music that doesn’t come out of a hymnal or a concert repertoire.  To the best of my recollection, most of the bad-ass lyrics I have to listen to as my daughter surfs the FM waves on my car radio are secular, but mainly  just bad (how’s your Bruno Mars knowledge: would ya take a grenade for me?).

True, they don’t include commercials from A C Grayling or supportive messages from Sam Harris on twilighting your faith and teaching others to do the same, but that’s the price we pay for life in a democracy, sort of.  If there’s a chance the atheist horsemen will  be touring (sort of like the Three Tenors but without Ave Maria) I want tickets.  Heck, I even offer my services as their booking agent. The only thing is, they can’t use regular rock spiked with a message and call it secular rock, as though they’re as smart as Lady Gaga or Stone Temple Pilots or Pearl Jam.  They have to write and sing their own atheist songs, just like the Christian rockers sing about Jesus. They have to play their own gee-tars.  They have to wear T-shirts and have a name. I suggest the GnuTonians.  Otherwise, no deal.

The GnuTonians, Coming to a Military Base Near You!

Secularists are really bad at negotiating these teachable moments. It might have been the understandable position of the much maligned base commander, Colonel Sicinski, who finally approved the concert, that 98% of what soldiers listen to is secular rock.  After all, this wasn’t a debate about church music, and balancing an evangelical rock event with a secular rock event makes about as much sense as balancing feathers and bricks, or rocks if you’ll forgive the obvious.  Enter the Myth of the Persecuted Atheist:  If they [overprivileged religious persons] get their event, we want ours.  Poor Colonel Sicinski, just trying to do his job in an atmosphere where new atheist Christian-sniffers are looking for new ways to be outraged.

At least, however, the Rock Beyond Belief (get it?) organizers had the courtesy to be civil and grateful to the Colonel:  “Colonel Sicinski, Fort Bragg’s Garrison Commander has now approved the event in full, and we’re extremely grateful to him for this opportunity.”  –Not CFI, which implies his actions were “an outrageous misuse of power.”  Nothing is really exciting unless it’s outrageous or illegal, is it?  Perhaps the story behind the story is why the event became polarized and litigious so quickly, when clearly the Colonel was not balancing two apposites–like hard- and soft- rock- likers where demand could be easily understood and accommodated.  Give him a break.  This isn’t Iran.  The food is much better there.

There’s another something wrong with Rock Beyond Belief and all the joining-the-cause pedantry that CFI does these days as it tries to squeeze a little more juice out of its withering fruit.  In offering its shrinking volume of customers this kind of news, they are really attempting to spin false victories for Godlessness and Country out of utterly dumb facts.  The spectacle of an organization that now chases more famous ambulances to the scene just so it can get its name in the blogroll and call it a victory for freethought is just a little pathetic, don’t you think?

Do I think atheists should have the same right to hold a messaged-rock concert same as evangelical Christians?  Sure I do.  I suppose Catholics, Jews, Pastafarians and Nuwabianists need to chime in to assert their rights while the environment is sweet for everybody’s songs.  Everybody but Unitarians.  They have really bad music.

But equal is equal, fair is fair, and the braintrust at CFI seems to think that secular rock needs defending.  As soon as I know what that is, I’m there–on the side of truth, justice, and free inquiry. If they play Freedom, I may just go myself.  But then we have to let the NeoNazis do their thing. White Boss or The Dentists, anyone?  Anyone?  Now that will test Colonel Sicinski’s powers of judgement –and his memory.

10 thoughts on “Secular Rock and Religious Roll

  1. A day’s worth of rock your balls off tunes, a few beers, and Richard Dawkins doing his best impersonation of a motivational speaker. What has the world come to?

  2. Well, if there are any oinostofarians there then that will be reason to attend…..maybe. One would need lots of wine before listening to Dawkins, for sure.

    • After your balls are rocked off he can explain that the temporary exhilaration caused by the deafening music is really a successful species adaptation that permits us to tune out dull lectures on adaptaion.

    • On the plus side, it isn’t PZ Myers doing the talking. One would surely need a full frontal lobotomy to sit through that — yeesh.

  3. Imagine Dawkins squeezing into skinny jeans, with his hairy knees peeping through the specially crafted knee rips, and a safety pin through his nose. Will he spike his hair and dye it? The CFI seem to think that even drinking out of a coffee cup has to be carefully identified as a non religious event. How careful are they going to be when selecting secular music? Half the music I like will probably be disqualified because of religious innuendo – Cohen: Hallellujah, Zeppelin: Stairway to Heaven. Probably even the Sex Pistols version of God save the Queen won’t fit the criteria. I’ll stick to my own choice on my own personal stereo, without the nauseatingly ‘selfish genetically free from belief meme’ lectures. Perhaps they should stick to songs with lyrics such as this :
    Jimi Hendrix’s Freedom should be adopted as the new planet anthem, or at least replace America’s spangled ‘land of the free’. It is my new anthem anyway. Freedom from definition. Freedom to live. Freedom, so I can give. Right on, straight ahead, stay up and straight ahead. Freedom.


  4. Bravo as always, Joe,

    I now listen only to a radio station in Canada that is all music, all in French. – – no ads, everything new to me. Relearning the language so that I can boycott North America entirely – from France/Holland.

    I read just to get some balance against ‘serious’ news. Pretty soon the broadcast TV networks will arise again, being free during a Depression, and I just did sixty years of that, thank you – need some freedom myself.

    R.I.P. CFI

  5. OMG. That line up looked dreadful. I can see why no one would want to waste taxpayer money on such a dreadful event. It was a gross parody of a right to life rally. Look at the music for this so called rock event; A scholar with a thesis, at a rock show? “Spoonboy – David Combs’ solo side project balances the deep philosophical questions of the day with the optimism of youth consistently delivered through super catchy melodies.” um, skip it. They could have done better with Marilyn Manson or Slayer. These bands sound like kids carnival acts.

    Then the speakers! it is a weird mirror image of an evangelical revival. Their is a “former” evangelical preacher. A son of weird racist barbaric preacher, which reminds me of the practice of evangelist with reformed whores, ex hedonist and atheist. Bloggers, heads of atheist organization, and Richard dawkins the odd Ozzy Osbourne of this Ozz Fest. Worlds most square ‘Gathering of the Juggalos”.

    The impression is that atheism is a terribly dreary faith. Its like the science club organizing the prom.

    I would like to ask what you think of this, When some one says “twilighting your faith” that sounds like a dark message, like the opposite we would expect from a hero advising comrades in a story. Isn’t faith derived from a word that carries the meaning of trust? I mean we have faith in lots of things, Perhaps it is irrational, but I often assure my self that life has a purpose for me. I try to trust that to be true, or have faith in it. It might be accurate to say you don’t really know, but living with that anxiety is crippling to enjoying ones life, which is its purpose. Is the atheist message not truly liberating or positive?

  6. “Atheist message”? Like the “Christian message” of salvation or prosperity? Hypothetical atheist message: Liberation and prosperity, announced by heros and champions with causes and bandwagons. (I’ve just been reading an atheist called J.C.) I’m always suspicious of messages and messengers. Messages are reminiscent of manifestos which are reminiscent of Bibles – all incestuously related. And a national anthem at a rock concert? Does it fit with music reflecting revolution and freedom? Patriotism is a kind of religion, a conviction that your land is best. It makes enemies of the rest of humanity.

  7. Pingback: The Morons of Rock « Brain Puke

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