Monday, November 15, 2010

Six Minutes of Awesome

Can an atheist feel awe, you ask? Sure! 

I had an interesting conversation recently. A good friend expressed her displeasure at the choice of religious music on the bill at our school's winter choral concert. She's a religious skeptic, though perhaps not an atheist. Her point was that a public school concert should not be so heavily heavenly. 

Me? I have absolutely no problem with it. None whatsoever. I have openly wept at this concert (my kids won't sit with me any more). "Stirring," "inspiring" and "moving" don't capture the impact on me of these young voices harmonizing in such a solemn manner. 

Hey, I'll take beauty where I can find it. I think it's safe to say that all great works of art have been created from inspiration. In recorded history, in the Western world (familiar to me), a good chunk of that art was created as a tribute to the Judeo-Christian god. I've seen this:

and this:

--and been moved by their magnificence. We don't have to mourn Pharoah Khufu to appreciate the stark beauty in this feat of human effort, right?

So today I was treated to another exalting experience. Background: I LOVE the idea of flash mobs. One of my friends who knows this about me was kind enough to share this link today. In a recent "Random Act of Culture," 650 choristers gave Christmas shoppers a surprise treat when they performed the Hallelujah chorus from Handel's Messiah at the downtown Philadelphia Macy's. Please watch the video (there, I linked it again); it will bring you six minutes of awesome today. 

And then indulge my cynicism: is that majestic department store (complete with THE WORLD'S LARGEST operational pipe organ) a cathedral of capitalism? 

Monday, November 1, 2010

Report from the Front Line of Reason

I drove to Washington, D.C. this weekend to join the Rally to Restore Sanity. Though the massive crowd prevented us from actually seeing the program, it was wonderful to be in such a diverse crowd with one thing in common: mutual respect. 

A group of people on the steps of the National Gallery of Art - East held a sign proclaiming themselves atheists, but I felt no urge to jog up and say "Hi! I'm one of you!" even though I was wearing my insider's t-shirt. Atheists might never become a strong political voice in this country--there's just nothing there to ritualize. I'm cool with that as long as society neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg, to paraphrase Thomas Jefferson.   

Okay, I did overhear one skinhead say that he felt like punching someone, but of the tens of thousands of people we came into contact with--actual physical contact, that is--he was way outnumbered. So much humor, so much tolerance, so much positivity. It was a beautiful experience. 

We the people came together on an achingly beautiful day in the Garden of Giants.