This is an excerpt from my 2008 monologue Totem Figures, explaining why my Catholicism flaked away:
So I was raised pretty strongly Catholic
and I believed with all my heart and soul for a very long time
But the whole venture was ultimately doomed if, for no other reason, because of the music
Which, on the one hand, is a gross oversimplification of some complex spiritual issues,
But on the other hand, captures it perfectly.
I mean, have you ever listened to the music in a Catholic mass?
And the way people sing it?
Is that the sound of how these people feel about God?
About being personally known and treasured by being who created the entire universe?
Here's the thing, though - church music lives on its own plain
It doesn't even occur to us to think of it critically
To even think of it as music that some person, somewhere, someone with more or less musical talent sat down and wrote
It's immune from criticism
Just like Christmas music
Just like the national anthem
But what if you did.
What if you looked at it purely as technical songwriting and playing
And as an expression of feeling
How would it stand up?
Can you imagine some nonreligious person listening to it for its own sake?
Can you imagine someone coming home from a hard day's work
Flopping down on the couch
Cracking open a beer
I need to blow off some steam...
And doing it
By throwing on a record
Of an amateur three hundred person choir
Of random people
Singing Catholic hymns
With no enthusiasm whatsoever
Accompanied by everyone's favourite musical instrument: the organ!
Also played by an amateur
And just cranking it up
And disappearing into the music
I can't even picture the pope doing that.
And if God really is everything everyone says He is
If He's like, The Guy
Then He's quite certainly many notches above the greatest human geniuses in every possible field
Including music appreciation.
So how would that music sound to Him?!
I mean, it sounds bad to me, and I'm just a human!
And if He's everywhere, all the time, he can't help but listen to it
Week after week
Day after day
In every church on the planet
And He can’t forget any of it
What the hell kind of torture is that?!
I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy!
When I die and go to hell for saying all this
That's probably what they'll do to me.
Is God up there, listening to all this church music
Just diggin' it...
Just boppin' along...
Cuz I wouldn't even be friends with someone whose taste was that bad
Much less worship them
(end of excerpt)
I've since found some religious music I totally fuckin' dig: the Golden Gate Quartet - a cappella gospel singing from the 30s and 40s. Black guys. Mostly doing Old Testament story songs. They were in their late teens/early 20s when they did this recording. Haunting, passionate stuff. God, I imagine, would be impressed.
Endnote: Eddie Izzard covers some of this same territory in a much funnier bit, which sort of inspired this one.