Sunday, September 18, 2016

"I'll Fly Away" to an #AtheistEar

I loved this song when I was a kid, mainly because the congregation was familiar enough with it that I could rip out whatever harmonies I wanted without worrying that I'd throw anyone off.

Here's a more "traditional" version featured in O Brother, Where Art Thou?

 And since I couldn't choose, here's the version by Alison Krauss and Gillian Welch from the official soundtrack:

(Lyrics for the Kossoy Sisters version)

(Lyrics for the Krauss & Welch version)

Even when I was a Bible-believing kid, I noticed the problem with these words, and asked about them. "Some glad morning, when this life is o'er... so, I should be looking forward to death? That seems creepy!"

But as you grow up, and look around, you can see that same tension in every faith. It seems to go along with the notion of an afterlife that is better than this world. Certain groups - I'm thinking of Calvinists, but I'm sure there are others - don't believe the afterlife holds anything but punishment, but most seem to hold out hope of something heavenly.

It's actually very interesting to me to find out what people think would be eternally rewarding. In my younger, more obnoxious days, I used to joke that if heaven didn't involve eternal beers & blowjobs, I wasn't interested. That was a useful shield for deflecting well-intended attempts to save my soul, but these days, I'm more inclined to let people describe their vision of heaven for me. You can learn a lot about their psychology that way.

And I am not saying that to be snarky. It's very important to watch for danger signs, when someone might be considering harming themselves. An obsession with the afterlife, combined with a loathing for the world we live in could be a sign that someone needs help.

One thing I do sometimes get snarky about is the assumption believers make, saying that because I don't believe in "anything" I don't have anything to live for. I find that offensive, because of course I have a lot to live for! Rather than not believing in ANYTHING, I simply don't believe in the supernatural. That means that the world and everything in it is all I get. I don't have an escapist fantasy to look forward to, so I seek to enjoy my life here.

As a matter of fact, that's what I'm doing this weekend: enjoying my son, and our scout friends on a camping/bike-hike! (That's why this post is a bit less analytic than the others.)

I still fondly treasure this song, but for me, it's the harmony, and the memories associated with it that I love. The words are just plain creepy.

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