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Harper and Religion

Discussion in 'Words and Music' started by Way Out Willie, Nov 13, 2007.

  1. I was really struck by "The Black Cloud of Islam", with the words "I've not read the book so I cannot recite, but I'd bet Salman Rushdie is just about right." I've read John Shelby Spong's books on Christianity and its need to reform, and his book "The Sins of Scripture" tells how the scriptures have been used in the past to justify slavery, oppression of women, calling gays "sinful", etc. I see the song as an indictment of a religion that needs to update and reform its outlook, as Christianity also does. However, the song resonated with my brother-in-law, who is a conservative Republican Christian, and my other friend who is pro-gun, actually pro-war (if pressed), and much more to the right of my own left-of-left political and social views. I guess Islam is a much easier target now than it was in 1990 when "Once" was released. Harper seemed ahead of the curve in his views on Hizbulla (sic), jihad, etc. He seems to be specifically criticising "books written hundreds of ages before", which is where a lot of the problem lies. Scriptures are often offered up as "proof" for whatever sin is at hand. • Another song that comes to mind is "Don't You Grieve" from Flat Baroque and Berserk. • What do the British think of the Mel Gibson movie "The Passion Of The Christ"? I, for one, thought it emphasized the crucifiction over other more valuable aspects of Christ's life, perhaps creating a "righteous anger" effect, when what we need is love. My brother-in-law, as usual, loved the movie.
  2. pd

    pd Slightly Desperate Staff Member

    Roy's take on religion has always been of interest to me. He has spoken out about various religions over the years and I think the common theme is that he generally thinks that organised religion is generally a bad idea, and I concur with this. I don't particularly care what people choose to believe in the comfort of their own homes (or indeed in the seclusion of their own minds). It's when they start trying to impose these beliefs on others that I think the problem starts.

    This is from things as simple as being hassles by Jehova's Witnesses at the Door (thanks Ivor Cutler) through to the subjugation of an entire society. I realise that a lot of people need some sort of emotional crutch to get through the horror of living (let's face it, life is a horror for every one at one time or another) but to use that crutch as justification for ill-treating another human being is just wrong.

    I have the impression that the USA is still mostly a "god-fearing" society (what a ridiculous phrase that is) whereas where I live in the UK we are mostly secular. But then, who are we Brits to judge when most of our society seems enthralled in the cult of celebrity instead - that's an alternative religion for many, along with playing the Lottery and binge drinking.

    Erm... back to the point... my favourite anti religious lines of Roy's come from "The Spirit Lives":

    Love is the great triumph over christianity,
    She made a fool of silly priests. She mocked authority.
    She filled her bed with happiness. She gripped his loins for joy
    And felt ecstatic agonies and screamed the sweetest cry.
    I don't think that "Black Cloud of Islam" is a particularly great song and I don't like the "I've not read the book" line much, it seems very sloppy to me. I also think that song is in danger of being taken out of context by someone unfamiliar with Roy's works and being interpreted as being aimed solely at Islam but with tacit approval of "Western" religion, which is certainly not the case.

    Enough of my whittering, Roy as usual puts things much more eloquently: http://www.royharper.co.uk/shop/display_page.php?page=diary/entry21
  3. Shane

    Shane Computer stained fingers

    its hard to top the spirit lives when it comes to anti-religious sentiment. i like how it shows not believing in a god as a positive thing, as a belief in itself and a way to take meaning from your own existance, rather than as simply as an emptiness that makes living meaningless.

    also, "you christians destroyed our tribe, I'll fight you til i die" is a good line to throw out in an argument...
  4. aspwatterson

    aspwatterson The Unknown Soldier

    Still thinking on...

    I still will mandate/maintain that RH has thought/almost taken in on-board
    [ bored? ] many things in his earthly plane about the 'after-spirit-life' even though he discounts in so many communications public (eg : in that diatribe when he will never believe things that are not here, let alone things that are here, or, etc. etc.).

    Bit like other artists I have become accustomed who swear they don't do / haven't done drugs??!! Perhaps some of you will think that's a spurious analogous statement ... like religious fixations??

  5. Ben Naga

    Ben Naga Guest

    Pro-religion, pro-gun, pro-war?? Takes me straight to Hammell On Trial's song "Don't Kill" from his "Tough Love" CD. I was fortunate enough to see him perform this (excellently) in Dublin recently.

    Better yet, take a listen to the man here.
  6. pd

    pd Slightly Desperate Staff Member

    Brilliant song! Thanks very much for posting that, Ben.
  7. The Death Penalty

    This brings up the subject of the death penalty. There's a great song by Steve Earle called "Ellis Unit One" from "Broadcasts Vol. 6/107.1 KGSR/Radio Austin", which may be hard to find, as it is a limited editon series put out annually by the local station here in Austin. Here's the line that got me: "I've seen 'em fight like lions, boys, and I've seen 'em go like lambs. I've helped to drag 'em when they could not stand. I've heard their mamas crying when they heard the big door slam. And I've seen the victims' families holdin' hands. Last night I dreamed that I woke up with straps across my chest. Somethin' cold and black come through my lungs. Even Jesus couldn't save me, though I know he did his best, but he don't live on Ellis Unit One. Swing low, swing low, swing low and carry me home. Swing low, don't let go, swing low and carry me home." I am pretty sure that Earle is referring to Huntsville, Texas, the capitol of executions in the US. I am very familiar with this type of "good ol' boy" thinking, being a native Texan myself. I grew up in Odessa, an industrial oil boom-town only 20 miles from Midland (the business counterpart), home of George Bush Jr. Back in the day, I may have snorted coke from the same dealer as the President did. I have migrated to Austin, the last hold-out of whatever hippies and radicals ever existed in Texas. Dallas is decidedly Bible-belt. Houston is too big. Fort Worth is OK.
  8. Bob Jacobs

    Bob Jacobs Ride away in style

    Steve Earle and the Death Penalty

    I agree Ellis Unit One is a great anti-death-penalty song, as is Jonathan's Song. I've got a Steve Earle Live from Austin, which is presumably the one you describe, though I don't remember all the details. I'd also recommend the DVD and double CD "Just an American Boy". Jerusalem is his best studio exposition of his political views (John Walker's Blues is a great empathetic attempt at trying to understand why "just an American boy" would go off and join the Taliban) and the latest, Washington Square is a wonderful, more mellow set: heartily recommended. Steve is a great individualist survivor, much like our Roy, with right on views :) I visited Dallas briefly while I was in America but failed to see Fort Worth or Austin ... I hope you don't suffer from the Fort Worth Blues!

  9. Wee Steve

    Wee Steve Computer stained fingers

    "Unnoticed, the moneybox loudly endorses the shame while the world that Christ fought is supported by using his name."

    Says all there is to say about organised religion for me.
  10. SHAUN I

    SHAUN I It's so clear on the wings of the dawn

    organised religion

    I always thought the phrase "God fearing" was a ridiculous statement too PD, when I was younger if you were god fearing you were considered a religious person what does that tell you about the christian faith! I've always thought Come Out Fighting.. was one of Roys anti organised religion vehicles, you get a real sense of where his views were formed in his childhood with certain events that happened to him.
    The way he describes "your god" and "the bible was the only truth". I had similar views whilst growing up due to a strict catholic mother impressing her "values" upon me and my siblings, thats why I like Roys work so much I think, he expresses in his songs emotions that touch people in an undescribable way, he is truly one of lifes deep thinkers.
    the late Frank Zappa was also a great disbeliever in organised religion whom I'm also a massive fan of, as crazy as it sounds because they're poles apart musically, I do draw a lot of parallels between the two artists.

    Shaun I

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