I wrote the following on another board about half a year ago, and, not having seen anything like it in my brief tenure here, I thought I'd replicate it here and see what comes of it. Submitted for your approval....
I am no great fan of organized religion, and anyone who has read my stuff either here or elsewhere knows that. That said, if religion had never been, there are few other things which very likely would never have been, either:
* Mozart's Requiem Mass
* Bach's Mass in B-minor
* Brahms' German Requiem
* Lauridsen's Lux Aeterna
* Pergolesi's Stabat Mater
Without religion to inspire them, these marvelous works of music and too many other to count very likely would not exist.
I mention the Mozart first for a very important reason: beyond the fact that is, by itself, and amazing and powerful work, one of his finest, this piece inspired a young kid by the name of Eric Whitacre to become a choral composer. Mr. Whitacre is an amazing talent who has thrilled both the audiences who have listened to his work and the performers tasked with giving it life. Interesting to note that Eric's only work that refers to religion is based on the Old Testament text, "When David Heard That Absalom Was Slain," and deals less with belief than with a father's grief at the death of his son. It may be the most powerful thing Eric has ever written, and if you don't believe me, I can supply you with an MP3 of it.
Indeed, you could argue that it was religion which inspired one work which I think of as rather reactionary to the whole religious concept: Carl Orff's Carmina Burana, a powerful, bawdy work which frequently talks about seducing virgins, of drink and gambling, among other things. I've sung Carmina. It is a fun, vital work to sing, and I once described it to a fellow chorister as "the most fun you'll ever have with your clothes on." No jive, fact!
Without doubt, there is someone reading this who is thinking, "Okay, but what about the text these works are using? 'Kyrie Eleison, Christe Eleison!' You're begging God or Christ to have mercy on you!" To which I say, "So Fraggin' WHAT?" If I say "Shit on a shingle," does that mean I'm taking a dump on a roof, too? In any case, it is the music that matters here, and this is ENORMOUS music, music with depth and expression and emotion, music that, I have no doubt, will last long after the guy writin' this is DUST.
Music is only one casualty of the disappearance of religion. Art would take at least as big a hit, perhaps bigger. A healthy part of the Renaissance was devoted to religious art, some of which I can take, some of which I'll leave ... but I would just as soon that Michelangelo's David hung around, okay? And what about Da Vinci's Last Supper? Did he REALLY mean to throw us a curve ball about Jesus and Mary Magdalene, or is Dan Brown on bad acid? Either way, I'd prefer the work itself hung around.
My point's simple: religion in and of itself I can live without. I don't personally believe that all the supposed good works Mother Teresa and others of her ilk did in the name of her God make up for Crusades and Inquisitions and pedophilic priests and encyclicals like Humanae Vitae and the "Troubles" in Northern Ireland and far too many other things to count. The music IS another matter, to me an entirely separate and very important matter. What I'm asking is that when you throw out the bathwater, can we make sure the baby doesn't go with it?