Praise hymns for atheists, agnostics, pantheists, and freethinkers?
May 25, 2014 1:48 PM   Subscribe

Could some MeFites recommend music that might be considered praise hymns for atheists, freethinkers, etc.; that is, emotive songs with recognizable, traditional melodies and lyrics that can be sung in a group setting? Die Gedanken sind frei, It Ain't Necessarily So, and certainly John Lennon's Imagine are a few examples of what I'm trying to get at. Thoughts?
posted by jwhite1979 to Media & Arts (32 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
For Americans, This Land Is Your Land is a good one.
posted by bluedaisy at 1:52 PM on May 25, 2014 [4 favorites]

A shortened version of "Not Perfect" by Tim Minchin would work very well.
posted by ChuraChura at 1:59 PM on May 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

A lovely and hopeful song, that anybody can play and sing, is Pete Seeger's Well May the World Go.

Later, he seems to have added the verse:
Long may we sing this song, and younger voices carry on
Let all nations get along, when I'm far away.
posted by fritley at 2:08 PM on May 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

this is something Unitarians have spent a great deal of time thinking about. looking through the hymn books they've put together might be helpful.
posted by spindle at 2:17 PM on May 25, 2014 [7 favorites]

Well, if you're not already completely sick of it, Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen (played at nearly every open mic in your city).
posted by winterportage at 2:27 PM on May 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Like spindle, I was thinking of the UU hymn books, particularly Singing The Journey, which is newer.
posted by tchemgrrl at 2:28 PM on May 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

You'll Never Walk Alone

It's hopelessly cheesy, but I'm pretty sure I've heard Circle of Life used. (Thank you non-denominational services at historically-Catholic summer camp to kill time during mass.)
posted by hoyland at 2:33 PM on May 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

The 19th century freethought newspaper The Truth Seeker, published by D.M. Bennett, put out a collection of hymns, wedding and funeral orations and invocations. The hymns are labelled by meter and/or linked to more popular songs so you know what tune they go to.

The Truth Seeker Collection of Forms, Hymns, and Recitations is available via Google books and other book scanning projects like HathiTrust.
posted by audi alteram partem at 2:34 PM on May 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Dave Carter's "Gentle Arms of Eden". Can't hear it without singing the chorus the rest of the day to myself and feeling happier for it.

Also Stan Rogers' Mary Ellen Carter. Stan's performance begins about 1:41 into the video, part of a documentary about his life.
posted by angiep at 2:43 PM on May 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

I think The Internationale would probably fit your description, though it might be just the tiniest bit politically loaded.

It'd likely be possible to dig up a lot more worker hymns from the golden age of labor activism that'd qualify as well.
posted by multics at 2:56 PM on May 25, 2014 [6 favorites]

Seconding multics + specifically suggesting the highly charged "Preacher and the Slave" from the big red songbook
posted by lownote at 3:11 PM on May 25, 2014

Keep On the Sunny Side if you just skip the last stanza
posted by Ideefixe at 3:16 PM on May 25, 2014

Check out Rise Up Singing, which is chock-a-block with this stuff. I grew up basically secular Quaker, and it was used a lot in that community-- lots of folk songs, union songs, and the like.
posted by ITheCosmos at 3:17 PM on May 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

Sibelius's Finlandia is sometimes sung with the lyrics:

Finlandia Hymn (This Is My Song)

This is my song, O God of all the nations,
A song of peace for lands afar and mine.
This is my home, the country where my heart is;
Here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine;
But other hearts in other lands are beating
With hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.

My country's skies are bluer than the ocean,
And sunlight beams on clover-leaf and pine.
But other lands have sunlight too and clover,
And skies are everywhere as blue as mine.
Oh, hear my song, O God of all the nations,
A song of peace for their land and for mine.

This is a decent clear recording.
posted by kadia_a at 3:22 PM on May 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

How about It's In Every One Of Us?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:34 PM on May 25, 2014

"(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding"

Elvis Costello.
posted by jbenben at 3:49 PM on May 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

The Rainbow Connection
posted by drlith at 4:42 PM on May 25, 2014 [7 favorites]

Ode to Joy -- my own favorite versions are by Billy Bragg and Paul Robeson.
posted by scody at 5:49 PM on May 25, 2014

This little light of mine does not explicitly mention god.
posted by saucysault at 5:59 PM on May 25, 2014

We Rise Again
posted by islander at 6:02 PM on May 25, 2014

My Blue Boat Home. It's a popular Unitarian Universalist hymn and one of my favorites.
posted by jilloftrades at 6:39 PM on May 25, 2014

we are the champions
posted by bruce at 6:43 PM on May 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

What A Wonderful World is a lovely one. It includes the line "bright blessed days, warm sacred nights" but that was never enough to bother me personally.
posted by jameaterblues at 7:14 PM on May 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Turn the World Around by Harry Belafonte. For extra joy, watch the version with Muppets.
posted by tomboko at 9:35 PM on May 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

I was going to suggest "I Can See Clearly Now", though I realize it actually says "Here is that rainbow I've been praying for." I've always sung it "waiting for" anyway.
posted by wintersweet at 11:41 PM on May 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

I feel like Peter Paul & Mary are a good source for these, particularly:

The Song Is Love
If I Had a Hammer (originally by the aforementioned Seeger)
Weave Me the Sunshine
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 5:02 AM on May 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

What about Michael Jackson's Heal the World?
posted by Chrysalis at 7:08 AM on May 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's more than a little tongue-in-cheek, but I immediately thought of Steve Martin's Atheists Don't Have No Songs
posted by conradjones at 9:30 AM on May 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Is There For Honest Poverty better known as A Man's a Man for 'a That.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 8:02 AM on May 27, 2014

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