God has the best tunes

I’m an atheist. But I don’t believe religion should be scrapped. Instead, in the spirit of the age, I propose that religion should be recycled.

There’s lots to like about God. There’s His architecture for starters. Great churches; inspirational places of beauty and magnificence. I defy anyone with an ounce of soul not to feel spiritual in a building like Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Some of the greatest art in the world is religious. Religion has given us some powerful moral teachings, such as the Christian ideal of forgiveness, which I think is probably the most significant moral principle of them all, even more important than the pre-Christian notion of justice.

But it’s the music I like best.

They say the Devil has the best tunes, but I think God’s got a pretty good repertoire. In any case, the idea that rock’n’roll belongs to the Anti-Christ is a bit far-fetched. Even Ozzy Osbourne turned out to be a cuddly old bear who thought the bat’s head he was biting off was a plastic toy. Anyway, I digress. Back to religious music. Here’s some of the best.

Let’s start with a modern composer most of you won’t have heard of – Eric Whitacre. Play the video below and listen to his awesome internet chorus performing the haunting Lux Aurumque.

What about a good requiem? I don’t believe in an afterlife, but there’s nothing like making a grand exit, and for that you need a full orchestra and chorus. For sheer burn-in-hell terror, you can’t beat the Dies Irae fromVerdi’s Requiem. Or, if your tastes are less theatrical, try Mozart’s Requiem.

I love Bach’s St John Passion, even though it’s in German and I can’t understand a word. Just listen to the power of the music and the human emotion that rises through it

Even familiar pieces from church can be fabulous when performed well. Everyone who attended a church or school in Britain can join in with Good King Wenceslas, and what about the exquisite In The Bleak MidwinterLord of all Hopefulness, played at my grandmother’s funeral, never fails to reduce me to tears. And for a rousing emotion-draining finale, let’s all sing Jerusalem, written by good-old bonkers-mad William Blake with music by the brilliant Hubert Parry.

Are you convinced yet? Does God really have the best tunes? You’ve got to admit, it’s not half bad.

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