As You Listen To Christmas Carols, Think of the Atheist Choirs — All Three of Them

By Tom Gilson Published on December 23, 2017

bThere’s a new atheist choir in Los Angeles. They call themselves the “Voices of Reason.” They sing the “Evolution Chorus” to the music of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus. They sing “Every Sperm is Sacred,” from Monty Python.

This is wrong so many levels I hardly know where to begin. Thankfully there isn’t much of this kind of thing going on. There are exactly three atheist choirs. In the world. (Back to that in a bit.)

Amanda MacLean, one of the L.A. group’s founding members, said in an interview that she didn’t like her college choir “because they sang too many religious songs.” Christmas was an especially rough time for her in that college choir. “Despite the choir being a part of a public community college, we still sang religious music around the holidays and it was hurting my soul.”

The poor dear. Christmas music is so very damaging, isn’t it? I’m not sure what she means by “soul,” though; I thought most atheists didn’t believe in a human soul. I suppose she meant her psyche, which is fair enough. Spirit, soul and psyche are all connected in the Bible’s original languages. It took modern man to find a way to rip them into separate categories.

“Voices of Reason”

Anyway, she wanted to join an atheist choir. She thought there’d probably be lots of atheist choirs around L.A. because it’s “a pretty progressive, nonreligious town.” She was wrong. There weren’t any, so she helped start one. She picked up on the name “Voices of Reason,” which had been used by a previous atheist group, since gone defunct.

Atheists do love to call themselves the voice of reason. I was at their “Reason Rally” in Washington, D.C., back in 2012, where “reason” was represented by (among other things) a song about the Pope that included 72 instances of the F-word. (Someone else counted them, not me.)

Music isn’t for reasoning. It’s for filling up gaps in the soul where logic can’t reach.

During the run-up to the Reason Rally I helped put together a book, True Reason, in which several authors united to show that the New Atheists’ claim to reason isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. In a word, their arguments are riddled through and through with factual failures and logical fallacies. 

“Reason Through Song”?

Still, the “reason” thing seems important to their self-image. But really, now: “Voices of Reason”?  “Reason Through Song” — as the interview is titled? Sorry, but no. I’m a musician, and people also tell me I seem to know something about logical reasoning. And I know that music isn’t for reasoning. It’s for filling up gaps in the soul where logic can’t reach.

A song meant strictly for reason is bound to be cold, dry and lifeless. To me it smacks of computer-composed music — which is a real thing now, if you define “music” loosely enough. The computer/human “Can you tell the difference?” test I ran across recently was too obvious to bother with. You don’t get heart from an algorithm — not even an algorithm riddled with fallacies.

The “Evolution Chorus”

As for the “Evolution Chorus,” there are two issues. One, who could honestly get that excited about evolution? Even its most committed cheerleaders describe it as random variation — luck, that is — leading to the survival of those who survive. They call it “natural selection,” which means exactly, “those who survive and get to reproduce, get to survive and reproduce.” They also call it “survival of the fittest,” but “fittest” means “most likely to survive,” so it comes out meaning the same thing. And you’re going to burst forth in glorious song for that?

Honestly, it gives me a stomach ache. My wife calls it sacrilege. She’s right.

If anything, they’re celebrating themselves, their “reason.” They’re congratulating themselves for believing in evolution. What else is there to get excited about?

And why would they want to ruin the greatest piece of music ever written (my opinion), the most exuberant celebration ever produced, written for the one Person most infinitely worth celebrating? I mean, which is worth getting excited about: The Lord God omnipotent reigning forever and ever? Or cosmic rays inducing random mutations that give a certain population a slight edge, so they live a while longer while their competitors go extinct? 

If anything, they’re celebrating themselves, their “reason.” They’re congratulating themselves for believing in evolution. What else is there to get excited about?

Three Atheist Choirs in the World

MacLean was asked, “Do you know of any other atheist or humanist choir groups that exist?” Her answer was very telling: “Unfortunately, I do not,” she said, at least not in the U.S. There’s one in London and another in Sydney, Australia. That’s it. That makes three atheist choirs. In the world. 

MacLean says that low number “bewilders me and it makes no sense.”

For my part, I wonder how far you’d have to go to find three Christian choirs. Not very. If you live in a medium-sized town in America you could probably find thirty. Or 300, easily, in any larger American city.

The low number of atheist choirs makes perfect sense to me. Singing is for celebrating. It’s for something far greater than the “sacredness” (whatever that might mean to an atheist) of “every sperm” (really?). Music is for expressing the heart, not for communicating cold “reason.” It’s for love and loss and beauty and pain.

And even if it harms Amanda MacLean’s soul — for which I truly grieve, for she has a real soul, and God loves her no matter what she thinks of Him — music is meant especially for celebrations like Christmas, with God’s own herald angels singing “glory to the newborn King!”

I pray that Amanda MacLean may find true healing for her soul. She’s going to need to look somewhere else for it, though. For there’s a very good reason there are dozens, maybe hundreds of Christian choirs, in the towns where you and I live, compared to three atheist choirs in the whole world.

Editor’s note: The interview on which this article was based was altered without notice on its web page after this article was published. Some of the discussion there was removed, including some that was quoted here; and in particular there is no longer any mention of an atheist choir in Sydney, Australia. See the discussion in comments for more.


Tom Gilson is a senior editor with The Stream and the author of A Christian Mind: Thoughts on Life and Truth in Jesus Christ. Follow him on Twitter: @TomGilsonAuthor.

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