Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Musical "Status Quo?"

Sorry it's been so long :o I've been busy with college and band-related endeavors. But more on that later. For now, I feel there's an issue within the new atheist movement that needs to be discussed.

Now first thing's first, don't get me wrong --- I absolutely love Hemant Mehta and I'm very fond of his work at Friendly Atheist. And when I read this article on his blog, I understood the point he was trying to make, and to an extent I even agree with it. However, I wanted to point something out. The article is about an event in Liberty, Missouri that was sponsored by the Parks & Recreation Department, in which --- GASP! --- a CHRISTIAN band was allowed to perform! From the article:

The event cost the city $9,500. It was “heavily promoted on Christian radio stations Calvary 88.5 and K-Love 97.3.” And a non-perishable food collection was taken up for a local ministry


I don’t mind the voluntary collection for a food bank, but why are public officials using tax money to bring in a decidedly Christian group to perform?


If I lived in Liberty, though, I would be pretty pissed off that my city officials paid for a Christian band to come to town to spread their gospel. Let the churches spend the money, not the local government.
Potential lawsuits aside, if you live there and you’re upset about how some of your tax money is being used, let the city council and Parks & Rec department know how you feel. Otherwise, nothing’s going to change.
Maybe it’s just because I’m in a band myself (albeit an “atheist” band), I’m gonna have to take the “not a big deal” side of this one. You can argue about whether the band's music is shit or not, but the fact remains that bands write songs about what they know/like/believe; bands are generally hired for being bands and providing music, not for providing ideology. You find a band that plays stuff that’s safe or appropriate for the venue (i.e. a punk band at a downtown club, or a country band at a redneck bar, a safe pop/rock/etc. band for a family event). That’s what seems to be the case here. And even if it wasn’t, frankly I don’t care, as long as there’s no blatant discrimination against “non-Christian” acts and equal opportunity is provided.

The thing to keep in mind is, what would be considered objectionable under normal conditions in society is not necessarily objectionable in musical form — that’s why The Offspring can release a song called “Kill The President” and not be tried for treason, just like a Christian band can get on stage and preach during an event when normal proselytizing is considered unconstitutional. Music is expression and art, which is protected by the first amendment.

Some people might say, “But the Christians KNOW that, and they’re just TAKING ADVANTAGE of the first amendment to spread their message!” To which I say, “So fucking what?” That’s what it’s there for. If you have something better to say, meet them on the same terms — use your own free speech to respond to them. Don’t try to silence theirs just because you don’t like what they have to say. Freedom of speech doesn't suddenly stop applying just because you disagree with the message.

Another thing that’s begun to bother me in recent months is how “Status Quo” this whole atheist movement is starting to seem. People raise a fuss because there are “more Christian bands than secular bands” at a given event, or that a Christian band got hired to do a gig instead of a "secular" band. I always hated the implications of this sort of fuss-raising — that if there aren’t exactly the same number of religious and secular bands at an event, that means there’s something amiss. As champions of science and reason, we atheists should know better — simple probability says that it’s very unlikely that there will be the *exact same* number of Christian vs. secular bands chosen for a given event. If there’s one more Christian band than secular, does that mean there’s discrimination? What about two more? When does it go from being “we just thought that more of the Christian bands met our standards than the secular bands” to “we’re discriminating against atheists?” Shit, people --- music and shows are supposed to create a sense of community and entertainment, they're supposed to bring people together. If we start splitting hairs because the religious "status quo" for a given event isn't fulfilled, what we're gonna wind up with is shitty events and bad bands --- we'll start seeing events that arbitrarily hire the exact same number of bands from the exact same number of religions (or nonreligions) just to avoid being sued. Instead of two good secular bands, we'll have a good "secular" band and a mediocre Christan band. Instead of two good Christian/spiritual bands, we'll have one good one and one not-so-great Jewish band. Instead of two good Jewish bands, we'll have one good one and a mediocre "secular" band. Please don't do that to the music scene, atheists. It's fragmented enough as is.

I mean, keep in mind, this is the same kind of shit Christians pull — we both know that if there’s a gig open for a single band, it’s either gonna be one kind of band or another kind. If it’s a Christian band, does that automatically mean discrimination against atheists? If it’s a secular band, does that automatically mean discrimination against Christians and other religions? What about a Jewish band? Where do we draw the line, here? It doesn’t have to be “discrimination” just because one guy got the job when another didn’t. It can just be that there was only one job, several qualified applicants, and one slightly more qualified applicant.
I guess I just think we run the risk of cheapening the whole movement if we keep overreacting to little things like this. Keep this up and it’ll become an internet meme like the Dave Silverman thing, just in the opposite direction.