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12/22/2009                                                                                       View Comments

Mary did you know...

by Summerbreeze

Mary Did You KnowImage by Kurt Magoon via Flickr
This morning, I, a non-believer for some time now, had an unusual reaction to a very religious Christmas song.

I was driving alone in a light snowfall, on my way to a neighboring town. The Pine trees were so pretty and sparkly with the fresh snow on their boughs.

I was listening to a radio station with non-stop Christmas music, which alternated between religious carols and non-religious Christmas songs.
Listening to Gene Autry's "Rudolf the Red nosed Reindeer" and Burl Ives' "Have a Holly Jolly Christmas" got me thinking about Christmas's past when my kids were small and believed in was a happy/ sad reflection.

Then "Mary did you know" sung by Kenny Rogers came on. It's a lovely song, the music is haunting and moving. ( but improbable lyrics ). As I was listening to it, towards the end of the song, I suddenly felt an actual shudder go throughout my body, and the hairs on my neck and on my arms stood up. I wasn't cold. I felt an actual rush of emotion, a sort of "thrill" that truthfully I can't describe.

As I drove along, I began to feel guilty for having such strong feelings during a religious song!

The more I thought about it, the more I came to realize that I was mourning the loss of the emotions that I'd felt long long ago, when I felt that Jesus knew me personally and truly cared about me.

The Jesus story is so seductive, especially at Christmastime, because each and every one of us wants to be loved, to be appreciated, and to have a "Father/Brother/Friend" to lean on and to count on in our times of trouble. It's hard to let that go.

My mourning was thankfully short-lived, then the very rational side of my brain overtook the wishful-thinking side of my brain. Reason wins out.

It would be so wonderful if the lyrics in that song were true, where Mary's baby would heal the lame, give hearing to the deaf and sight to the blind. But I have not seen any of these things happen through the goodness of "Jesus", only through the determination, knowledge and kindness of Man.

Wouldn't it be nice if Kenny Rogers could come up with a beautiful Christmas song about real people who give of themselves unselfishly, in so many different ways, not because of a heavenly reward, but because of the reward one feels in their hearts.

"Merry Christmas" WebmDave, his crew, all of the members here and the frequent posters, all of the ExChristian.Net fans, and even the drop-in fundys too (may you soon be enlightened!)


webmdave said...

Yeah, Kenny Rogers is definitely not the one to be singing anything to give me goose bumps. He's a perverted creep.

webmdave said...

Yeah, Kenny Rogers is definitely not the one to be singing anything to give me goose bumps. He's a perverted creep.

webmdave said...

I was minister of music and worship leader at different churches throughout our organization. I can remember times that I knew before we hit the stage that it was going to be a tremendously emotional (we called it spirit filled) worship service. I have to admit, I got pretty good at manipulating a crowd. That was 20 years ago, but just the other night I saw something on T.V. that just jumped out at me! Here is what happened:

I was watching Andrew Zimmern on the Travel Channel (he's the guy who will eat anything!) He was in Africa with a very remote tribe. On the last night together, the tribe danced the 'trance dance' while Andrew and his crew watched.

The tribe members chanted and danced around the fire. They had their eyes closed and hands raised. They chanted and sang, stomped and shook. They even fell down. I yelled to my wife.....Sweetie, look, it's just like the prayer room at the Full Gospel Lighthouse! I was seeing the same manifestations demonstrated by these naked natives!

At the end, one of the natives came to Andrew and placed his hands on him. Andrew began to weep! He said later (still weepy) that he had never cried on camera and he couldn't explain the feeling that had come over him. All he could say is that it was over powering and felt like LOVE!

Who can stop the tears, when you attend a candle light vigil, in memory of John Lennon and everyone is singing "Give Peace a Chance"?

All it proves is that we are human and humans are emotional.

Secular Humanism is the closest thing to religious that I ever want to be again!


webmdave said...

That bad huh?

webmdave said...

Even though I don't believe one shred of the Christmas story--be it the virgin birth, a star standing still above a fixed place, shepherds or wise men getting messages from God to come bring gifts to the infant Jesus, etc., I still enjoy Christmas music, at least when it's not overplayed. That includes many of the religious-themed carols, like "Ave Maria," (both the Schubert and the Bach-Guonod arrangements) "Silent Night," and "O Holy Night." I figured if all these recording artists that I know are Jewish are putting out Christmas albums, surely we secular folk can play along, too. Although if I was in a public setting and was going to sing something, I'd stick to the fun, upbeat ones, like "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," "Jingle Bell Rock," or "Santa Baby." I am currently listening to the compilation CD "A Very Special Christmas 7."

Now that it's actual Christmas Day, I hope everyone is enjoying it in the manner they see fit. As for me, I got my bf one of those massage pads you stick on the back of a recliner with a 10-function remote control. I figured I'd get him something I can enjoy, too... ;)

webmdave said...

My favorite Xmas songs are "Ave Maria" by Aaron Neville, because it's a little weird as well as moving, and the "Hallelujah Chorus" by the Roche Sisters because it's so campy. The most recent one i like is "Feliz Navidad" by Jose Feliciano, though it's not very new. The rest are just too overplayed.
It would be great if someone could write a great Xmas song that condemns the religious angle at the same time. I'm sure John Lennon could have done it if he had just lived long enough.

webmdave said...

You can probably watch the cartoon movie when you're 98% asleep and still catch the gist of it -- very little brainpower needed. ;-)

webmdave said...

" I also do not like songs like "Grandma Got Ran Over by a Reindeer [and was killed]" songs. ... I do not like the morbid ones, esp referring to someone getting killed. "

A great intellectual movie, it's definitely not. But to ease your mind a little bit, check out the movie. ;-)

Take care and happy holidays to you and your sons.

Spoiler Alert:

Grandma isn't *really* dead. lol

webmdave said...

Thanks and thanks for the spoiler too, because I was wondering that, because if she was, I wouldn't want to see it. I'll give it a look even though I am not too hip on non-intellectual movies.

webmdave said...

I personally don't mind Laura at all.

webmdave said...

I agree. I have heard the same old Xmas songs for 43 years and I am so sick and tired of them. It is like nothing new is written for the holidays or that is, very rarely is something new written by way of music for holidays songs and if there are, they are few and far between and rarely played as often as the traditional songs.

Thus, why I like the rarely played Xmas songs- those that few can sing all the words from memory. I have yet to get tired of songs that are rarely played every single holiday season and do not know all the words to. I am soooooo sick of "Deck the Halls", "12 Days of Xmas", "Silent Night", "O Holy Night", "Frosty the Snowman", "Rudolf", etc etc. However, I also do not like songs like "Grandma Got Ran Over by a Reindeer [and was killed]" songs. I'm not at all opposed to new songs, but I do not like the morbid ones, esp referring to someone getting killed. Why is that funny when the holidays are suppose to be special and spent with family, not talking about someone dying? Personally, even though I did not like my grandmother's religious views, I happened to love her and the idea that a grandmother is killed, even fictionally, around this time is just sooooo morbid to me.

But enough of my rant concerning morbid songs. There are far too many Xmas songs that are extremely worn out and I wish people would pull out the lesser known songs and even write more new ones too. There are not very many new ones written and those that are, are either few and far between or just don't appeal to my ear- lyrically or melody wise.

webmdave said...

The church I grew up in had the last pipe organ in town. I got pretty sick of pipe organ. Now if I hear one, I had better be at a 'Phantom of the Opera" performance.

webmdave said...

Doesn't do a thing for me. While it is good, it isn't very moving to me.

webmdave said...

***** HELLO EVERYONE ! *****

I appreciate EVERY SINGLE comment all of you have made ! You are all the greatest, and I really enjoy your views on this subject.

ExChristian.Net is the best site around, just chock full of smart, compassionate, funny, truthful and wise people.

I wish that I could answer each and everyone, but I am running around like a chicken with its head cut off getting ready to go out the door to my daughter's who lives 4 hrs. usual I'm running late.
Thanks again everyone and thanks WebmDave !----Merry Christmas !

webmdave said...

Very touching post, summerbreeze!

webmdave said...

If you want to have the hair on the back of your neck 'standup' listen to Handels Messiah, Hallelayah chorus on a pipe organ. It's fantastic ! Even for us Atheists.

webmdave said...

its always that feeling of thrill that makes people want to delve into religion. Religious people are in reality thrillseekers. That excitement you cant seem to get elsewhere. If you want to aviod dogma your only hope is to get that thrill from good deeds rather than a belief system. In reality the thrill is goodness. So the dogma free way to get it is to study the mind itself rather than the good qualities of saints teachers deities. I find the best way is to regard everyone as equal. Then practice equal goodness to all not favouring those with supernatural powers.
pure love
pure compassion
helping people etc no master controlling me, I just look to others in history who have tried to do the same for IDEAS. Not commands or rules.just ideas...then I get the thrill without the emphasis on magic unseen beings etc & without the claims that one being is important than others

webmdave said...

Thank you BP,
That explains it all. She is certainly welcome.

webmdave said...

Hi epiccolo,

Laura76 is a non-church-going xtian -- a kind person who says she has received only compassion and support from this site. She's not a fundy, but maybe a "universalist" (?) type. (I don't want to put words in her mouth.) She's been posting for a few weeks, but hasn't tried to push her beliefs on us. If you click on her picture, you can read her previous posts.


P.S. She also told that TILG troll (from one xtian to another) to stop preaching to us.

webmdave said...

Is Laura76 kidding? I can not tell. Do we have a xtian amongs us?
nina epiccolo

webmdave said...

And sad movies--no matter how manipulative or fictional. I cannot watch these things in a theater with other people. And both make great use of music that tugs the heartstrings.

webmdave said...

Christmas carols are probably some of Christianity's best creations, even if you accept them as myth. Enjoy the imagery and the music for what it is. Reinterpret the songs in a positive way. Songs like "silent night" are timeless. Don't throw that away.

webmdave said...

I got those feelings listening to a song about Beowulf earlier today.

Myths can be fun. :D

webmdave said...

Agreed. It's one thing that makes Christmas hard for me to swallow.

webmdave said...

I agree. The building of some of these cathedrals is something that has tragedy stories all around it.

On the flip side, The Catholic church created some of what I consider to be the finest architecture before modernity. I don't know how I feel about it all as far as ethics go--it would have been so much more like Jesus to take that money and use it in a hundred different ways. I have a feeling he would scoff at the cathedrals for resembling Roman architectural ambition too much, as architecture was of great value to them as well.


webmdave said...

I'm so glad you posted this. I was almost beginning to think I was becoming a Christian again when this happens to me. ... almost. ;)

Many have mentioned getting the same feeling when they listen to rock songs. Personally, even when I was a Christian, I felt that same feeling when listening to the soft chorus after the bridge on "Bullet with Butterfly Wings" by the Smashing Pumpkins. That's a song I can better relate to these days anyway!

webmdave said...

It will never happen in my lifetime either -- especially where I live in the Buybull Belt USA. Hmmmmm.... Australia is sounding better and better! ;-)

webmdave said...

I'd like to see it in my lifetime, too, but I won't. I did see it happening in U.K. where I grew up. When I was young there seemed to be many religious people around, but gradually they became less and less. There are so many abandoned/empty/ churches or have been converted in houses in U.K. and Australia that it must be having an effect on Christianity in those countries.

My local Catholic Church here in Australia is lucky to get 10-12 people to mass once a month.

Religion seems to have little influence in these modern times, especially where I live.

webmdave said...

I feel no connection to my past when I hear any christmas songs. I can't stand to lsten to any of them, especially if it has anything to do with Jesus in the lyrics..
I have completely wiped my childhood memory clean and don't want to hear anything for the rest of my life....

webmdave said...

I know what you mean, summerbreeze. The Little Drummer Boy does it to me. When the song gets to "I am a poor boy too...I have no gifts to bring...I played my best for him....then he smiled at and my drum" -- chills and tears every time. (Which probably explains why I prefer xmas songs like Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer, Christmas in the Caribbean, Walking "Round in Women's Underwear, and All I Want For Xmas Is A Real Good Tan... lol)

Happy Christmastime Everybody!

webmdave said...

I believe the information age and the advancement of scientific theory will continue to erode the presence of religion among educated peoples.

That's the one gift I want for christmas. If I see the end of religious influence in society in my lifetime, I will be ecstatic.

webmdave said...


Thank you for the post. Your reaction to the music proves you are human. Music has some effect on us all.

On the subject of Xmas, the Discovery Channel had a terrific program on last night re. the origin of the 4 Gospels, the Gnostic Gospels, and other supposed accounts of Bible Jesus. It was very informative. Emperor Constantine was largely responsible for unifying Christianity and directing men toward unifying the Bible. According to the show, his reasons were largely political in an attempt to unify a Roman Empire that was falling apart. He was a late "convert" to Christianity, and he wanted a unified religion to hold things together. The program pointed out how vehemently the early church leaders faught off competing factions of Christianity and how they banned the Gnostic Gospels and other accounts from the church. One of the experts on the program said it is pretty much certain that none of the 4 Gospels in the modern Bible were written by the men whose names are used. The guy said it was quite common for religious men to use the names of others to get attention. Nobody really knows who wrote the 4 Gospels. There seems to be growing evidence that the authors of the 4 Gospels were not eyewitnesses to anything Bible Jesus supposedly said or did. Of the other books mentioned in the program, the Gospel of Thomas was the most interesting. It is filled with quotes that Bible Jesus supposedly made, but it has no mention to any miracles or the divinity of Jesus etc. No wonder it was shunned. Can't have any glaring contradictions when you have an empire to throttle.

I believe the information age and the advancement of scientific theory will continue to erode the presence of religion among educated peoples. Time is not on the side of religion.

webmdave said...

Yes, the Jesus and Mary story IS very seductive, that's why Christianity used the story, rehashing old myths and legends as they usually did.

There has been so much excellent music composed around religion over the past 700-800 years, but of course any words are pretty trite.

webmdave said...

As a musician myself I can appreciate the powerful xmas music that is played during this time of the year. In fact, I was humming a xmas tune this morning and found myself smiling because I think the music is beautiful but, of course, the object of those songs is a fairytale.

I also get those "feelings" when I hear 'O Holy Night', but I also get those feelings when I go hear RUSH live. ;-)

Anyway, Happy Holidays to everyone and may everyone enjoy the Holiday Season with those you love.

webmdave said...

I used to play the piano for my church and one of my favorites was to play "O Holy Night" That song gets to me and something about the candles lit in the church with the christmas decorations and the snow softly falling and christmas songs...can't beat it. I could almost go to one of those old stately churches just for Christmas to hear the music. There's that darn song about the little boy whose mother is dying and is "going to see Jesus tonight"..he wants to buy her Christmas shoes but doesn't have enough money. That song gets to me. Dang it! lol!! Well, I'm glad to read this thread to see that i'm not the only one who is mesmerized and even allowing myself to enjoy the Christmas season!

webmdave said...

Had a similar but somewhat less powerful experience myself yesterday. I heard "Silent Night" by the Temptations for the first time. I have probably listened to it on youtube 10 times since then.

webmdave said...

Two words: Hallmark commercials.

webmdave said...

Summerbreeze, I get that same spine-tingling feeling from some Beatles songs, and a few others. You're right, it doesn't prove there's a god, it proves humans are emotional.

Ayhwh, your description of the modern megachurch makes me think of the huge old cathedrals in Europe. Imagine the enormous sums required to build these awesome structures - while the common folk suffered from malnutrition, disease, and every other infirmity known to man. Clearly, it wasn't real people that counted to the religious leaders, it was their delusion-in-the-sky.

webmdave said...

"Humans are emotional beings, one of the reasons we ex-Christians used to cling so tightly to a belief system that was basically indefensible."

This is so true! It comes as little surprise the amount of time, money, and effort that churches put into their worship experience on Sunday mornings. Having been a part of churches that had several thousand sheeple, it is ridiculous to see this grandiose spectacle.

Every service is as technologically stunning as a Britney Spears concert (with the help of video feeds and digital lights swirling around the room inducing seizure). All done to induce the awe and majesty of God. For me it always inspired an awe of the technical ability's of mankind.

But in the end it boiled down to emotional manipulation . . . to inspire the type of tingly feeling that great music provides us with.

Like Summerbreeze said, "I suddenly felt an actual shudder go throughout my body, and the hairs on my neck and on my arms stood up. I wasn't cold. I felt an actual rush of emotion, a sort of "thrill" that truthfully I can't describe."

When Christians feel this they automatically attribute it to god. If that was god then why do I get that feeling when I go see a great rock band that has nothing to do with god?

webmdave said...

Merry Christmas to everyone, Christians and heathen alike!

As a former church musician, I know first hand the powerful grip music can have on your emotions. Even as an ex-Christian, I still enjoy several of the old hymns and choruses we used to sing. I know that Christianity is a myth, but the music cuts through the brick wall of reason I've set up and hits me at an emotional level that I can't explain. Humans are emotional beings, one of the reasons we ex-Christians used to cling so tightly to a belief system that was basically indefensible.

I guess that I've leveled up from that point. My emotions are a convenient fiction my mind creates to deal with my circumstances. Just because I enjoy the warm feelings I get from religious music doesn't mean that there is any truth to them. I liken it to the flowery, poetic language I speak to my girlfriend that sends her into a dreamy, romantic state. It's total bullshit, we both know it, but we do it anyway because it makes sex sexier. The same way the church uses emotional music to romance the "bride of Christ" so they will open their wallets in the most sincere form of worship, tithing and offering.