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March 04, 2007


Secret Rapture

My inaugural address at the Great White Throne Judgment of the Dead, after I have raptured out billions! The Secret Rapture soon, by my hand!
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You said: "A believer is nothing without constant, unremitting hatred of the infidel."

Which of the world religions has that as one of its tenets?

Years ago I found a Fellini quote that spoke directly to my own experience. “I once believed in prayer and miracles. Now I believe in writing and art.”

Aaron Riccio

Why do more people fall all over themselves for religion than for art? I'm an atheist myself, but the answer's fairly simple: the only way you lose is if there turns out to be a God and you DON'T believe in him/her/it. If there is no afterlife, then there's nobody to laugh at you for being so zealous in life.

Unfortunately, it's a lot harder for the Theater to demonstrate that people are losing out by missing great shows. Especially when there are so many different shows (as opposed to the few [twenty is still a few] religions) to choose from. Furthermore, the specificity of religion gives people something in common. The vague multitudes of theater -- for all your talk of uniting things -- make theater a far more personal and isolated experience. Part of the reason film does so well is that it's a touchstone for strangers to talk about; what are the odds that the girl I meet tomorrow will know about the obscure off-off-Broadway play I fell in love with two years ago?

The article speaks about religion being an adaptation of the human body to something out there; theater, unfortunately, is all too easily lived without. The same goes for art in general, which, according to The Street is something that just isn't "real."

Wallace Shawn, in "The Fever," talks about how a play never changed anything, and accuses the audience of being this closed circle of the well-off. Isn't it, to some degree, true? I say this with love in my heart, but it's no surprise that art is so unpopular.

Besides, the last great president to openly appreciate theater got shot IN the theatre; something to think about, no?

David Cote

Nick: I will admit the believers-must-hate line was a tad melodramatic, but as far as I can tell, the more fundamentalist mutations of Christianity and Islam have, er, problematic attitudes towards the unbeliever. There is, I believe, subspeciation going on there in the pious attitude toward the infidel that permits murder.

And Aaron: I don't think it's quite that simple, as you shruggingly put it. Do you really think the faithful weigh their options and say, "Well, I'd rather be safe and look foolish than be damned in Hell." I doubt it's quite that rational and calculating. Religion speaks to some deep part of the subconscious that longs for narrative, symbol, beauty and meaning. I just worry that religious people let their imaginations carry them away. It's easier to attend the bad art that is religion than grapple with the good art that's out there. Thus, in a way, the success of Phantom and Les Mis. Perhaps they're more religious than theatrical...At the end of the day, "it's only a play." But too few say, "it's only a projection of my primeval hopes and fears." I suppose if I were to be really crude about it, I'd wear a t-shirt that reads "Religion: Bad Theater for Stupid People."

Malachy Walsh

I picked up END OF FAITH a few weeks ago and the way I read it, the popularity of religion comes down to something simple: It's inherited - by almost everyone at once - in the same sense that we inherit the alphabet.

Most "art" isn't brought into our lives the same way, so early on, when it might make a difference.

And the few windows we have to exposure to art are being shut on us. As you know, school funding for arts programs has been seriously cut - eventhough I understand there are solid numbers that connect participation in the arts with better academic performance.

Arts Administrators have also told me that the "culture of giving" - once part of the elite lifestyle - has shifted away from giving ANYTHING away.

More detrimental, it seems to me, while the primitive impulses and needs that create religion may also create art, in this culture, the understanding we inherit about art is that it's a "value proposition".

And when you can't convince people that arts participation in schools is a good value because it somehow helps with academic performance, well, you're in trouble across the board.


Malachy said: “the primitive impulses and needs that create religion may also create art.”

The Kid Id of anarchy duo up at your blog are representative of this need/impulse.

And theatre as punk disrupter is in opposition to geezer theatre as much as it is to the rest of culture.

Joshua James


I really loved this post . . . I've been following your angry atheist rantings and love every minute of it . . . tho' I am a buddhist, I'd say we have more in common than I do with people of other faith (note Sam Harris's footnotes on Buddhism in The End of Faith) and I agree with you on most things . . . in Buddhism, hard questions are encouraged, unlike most other religions . . . and I thank you for writing this . . .

And I've been saying for quite sometime that church is basically performance art, only not as well as you . . .

I hope someday to have coffee with you and pick your brain on the subject even more . . .


As another atheist, I applaud any attempt to get at the nagging question that plagues me so, and shall forever: why do so many people build their lives around these fairy tales, these ancient superstitions (without acknowledging them as such)? Why do they sometimes cut themselves off from the all the tangible benefits this world can offer, just to more earnestly tow the line of some invisible being, whose existence can never be verified by anything even approaching an objective measure? As David put it so well, don't they know they could be enjoying a good play? True, my love of the arts may just be a substitution for religion, a way for me to achieve the same kind of rapture that others do by immersing themselves in scripture; but, I still think I'm giving my life over to something ultimately more worthwhile. Even the thought of one day finding out I was wrong, and then being subject to all the pains and tortures of the netherworld for all eternity, doesn't make me any more receptive to that communal delusion.


"Diminish the urge to create and you have the priest."

Yes, indeed, and this is but one of the myriad 'topics,' along with the death of God, which Nietzsche deals with in his Zarathustra, which everyone here should see - yes, I mean SEE.

There is currently a production based on Zarathustra at the Kraine Theater called Requiem Aeternam Deo. With the advent of religious madness from all quarters of the world (our Christian leaders are just as fanatical as many of the Muslims if not more so), it's vital and pressing that such a work is being staged. I was quite startled to know it was happening. While there were a few off moments in the show I saw last night (it was the opening, it's always the case), it was quite powerful. If only the theater communities were as vigorous in promoting themselves and bringing others to the theater as churchfolk do, it could have more of an impact, but who has time to proselytize? And if only believers would be willing to question themselves and interrogate what is problematic about their beliefs; this show surely raises questions which believers need to confront.

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