playlist

Electioneering

I'm after a soundtrack to this election day to get me in the mood, and its proving rather difficult. I think I may require your help- If you have any to add do let me know @SparkleWildfire. Oh, and no D:Ream please :)

Here's what I've scraped together so far:

Radiohead- Electioneering

Arcadia- Election Day. Worth it just for all that hair. 

Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly - Daylight Robbery

Johnny Hobo and the Freight Trains- Election Song

And finally, one with a little bit of naughty language: 

The Ultimate Christmas album for the Existentially Wounded

"It's why, it's why we hang lights so high
and gaze at the glow of silver birches in the snow
Because of the dark, we see the beauty in the spark
We must be alright  if we could make up Christmas night"
-Tracey Thorn, Joy. 


Now, I'll admit that at this time of year, I can get rather annoying.

I love Christmas, I really do. I'm often to be found wearing antlers and tinsel. I put my decorations up at the first opportunity humanely possible, and start on the mince pies in September. This year, I excitedly bought myself a Lego advent calendar, despite the incredulity of the guy behind the counter in the shop. I also have snowman hoodie which yes, I shall wear out in public.

As a child-free, cynical, atheist adult, it might seem like this is a hard time of year to enjoy. And, to be honest, you're probably right. It would be a whole lot easier to throw in the towel and grumble about how commercial it all is, and how I just wish it was over and done with and everything can go back to normal. But I refuse to give into this, and put quite a bit of effort into maintaining my child-like delight at the festive season.

Obviously, its nothing to do with god. And don't get me wrong, I love the presents too (dear parents, if you are reading this, please do take note that I shall never be too old for Lego). But my desperation to enjoy this time of year runs somehow deeper than all that. I don't need to link it to religion, nor do I need to experience it through a child or partner. Christmas reminds me of my own, hard-won personality.

For me, it is about traditions. And these traditions, as they shift and change slightly each year, somehow reinforce my own self to me. Back in what now seems like a lifetime ago, my ex-husband and I took joy in forming new traditions together at this time of year. It was a way of reinforcing ourselves as a couple unit, of forging our own little family ways. Small things, like buying a new special decoration for the tree each year, came to mean a lot to us.

When my marriage broke down on Boxing Day 2010, I had to start again. Everything I had known up until that point fell apart, and my hopes and dreams, which I had been carrying like a shield all my life, shattered in a matter of hours. I had to begin again from scratch, and it was often the smallest of things that seemed to make all the difference to me.

The next year, my new, empty Christmas tree seemed somehow symbolic of how I had to start to collect some traditions of my very own. These traditions would belong to me, and me alone. I started picking up little decorations here and there, and now I have a rather lovely collection of bits and pieces to adorn my home with. And I've done the same with traditions: baking certain things at certain times, (including my beloved Christmas pie), drinking startlingly strong fruit wine in a particular pub on Christmas Eve with my friends, seeing Rare Exports at the cinema, taking part in a gingerbread contest, and many others. Some of us even go so far as to throw ourselves into the freezing North Sea on Boxing Day which not only washes away any vestiges of hangover cobwebs, but also distracts me from the awfully sad memories I would otherwise be thinking about.

Winter is a dark and often terrifying time for many of us. Dark mornings and dark nights make it easy for the sadness and emptiness to creep in. Getting home to a cold, dark, empty, one-bedroomed flat can start to feel like a failure. But then I pop on the tree lights, and I have something to focus on, some little pinpricks of hope that, in the end, the world is full of good people, and I will be able to spend some quality time with those who I love most- my friends and my family. And I will have an excuse to fill my flat with sparkly things, and wear glitter eyeliner.

Christmas is, to me, an acknowledgement that times will be dark and hard ahead, but that I will get through those times, with the help of those around me. It reminds me of how far I've come, and how proud I am of myself. It reminds me of all the good I have found in the world, of all the little bits of help I have gotten from the most unexpected sources, of all the new people I have met and the pride I have in my oldest friendships. If humankind has the presence of mind to plonk a huge celebration in the middle of the darkest season (even if they have done so on the pretence of a god I don't believe in), then that's fine by me, and I shall do my damnedest to make sure I embrace it with gusto.

I love the standard Christmas songs. I'll dance about to a bit of Slade with the best of them. But the saccharine jingle bells of most of the tunes you'll find on Now Thats What I Call The Ultimate Best Ever Christmas Tunes In World... Vol 3 don't seem to quite catch the nuances of the festive season for me. I've only come across a few songs which do, and I have collected them here for your auditory pleasure. I'm keen to know of more, so if you have any you would like to recommend, please do let me know, either in the comments, by email, or by tweeting me (@SparkleWildfire). What I would like to do is create a playlist of genuinely good, beautiful songs that evoke both the joy and the darkness of Christmas.

Joy by Tracey Thorn.
Tracey Thorn's (of Everything But The Girl fame) Christmas album Tinsel and Lights, which she released last year, was a total revelation to me. Its a gorgeous, calming album which hits just the right pitch of melancholy and joy for this time of year. I think this song says it all really.

Snowglobe by Dean Owens.
I saw Dean play at the Tyneside Cinema just before that fateful christmas of 2010. This is a lovely, sad little song about having depression or mental health issues over Christmas time. It serves as a reminder that mental health issues don't instantaneously resolve over the festive period, and that this time of enforced happiness can be extremely hard for many.

December Will Be Magic Again by Kate Bush
You may already know by now that I absolutely adore Kate Bush. Even the title of this song is poignant. This song has the same theme to me as Joy: its about using tradition to cover the darkness of the winter.

Winter by John Smith
This is simply the best, most beautiful song about the baby Jesus that I have ever heard. I first saw John play as support for John Martyn, and I have since seen him live several times and been reduced to tears by him. I absolutely adore his voice. I don't mind that this is a song about the nativity: to me it is a song about a story, and I just love how plaintively he sings that "I was there" line.

A Christmas Fable by The Selecter
I love a bit of ska. I've spent a full day agonising over which song to go for from this single. Then it occurs to me: its a double A-side, so I can legitimately have both. The songs are supposed to symbolise the light and dark sides of christmas, so they're pretty perfect for my playlist. Skank 'Til Christmas is all about letting your hair down when everything else in life has gone to shit (I love the references to the current financial situation), whilst a Christmas Fable is about a rather distressing family breakdown on Christmas day.

River by Madeleine Peyroux & K.D. Lang
A cover of this track also appears on the aforementioned Tinsel and Lights album. Thanks to the ever marvellous Ian Robinson (@eyeswideshut75) for suggesting it.

White Wine in the Sun by Tim Minchin
Thanks to Steve Haigh for reminding me of this. There's so much truth and humour in this gorgeous little tune, and it really sums up a good old family Christmas.

The Atheist Christmas Carol by Vienna Teng
This is just gorgeous.Thanks to Jackie (@Jackpot73- one of those new people so I am so thankful for having met this year) for

Silent Night/ 7 O'clock News by Simon and Garfunkel
Pretty self explanatory.

Love is All We've Got by Paul Fisher
I have loved Paul's music since the first time I saw him at a folk night when I was still underage drinking. I can remember being completely astounded by the noises that were coming out of this guy on the tiny stage upstairs in the Egypt Cottage pub. Turns out he has made a beautiful, gorgeous, poignant Christmas song this year which I will be listening to over and over.

Candle Song 3 by Mojave 3.

Tar Barrel in Dale by Rachel Unthank and the Winterset
Another one suggested by the lovely Jackie. A New Year's song about a Northumberland tradition. This year has been so cruel to so many of my friends and people I know, so I listen to this hoping that the new one brings those who I love some luck.

Hxxx

P.S. Here's my Sparkle Wildfire Top Festive Tip for the year: mulled wine liquid soap might seem like a good idea in the shop, but its really not. You end up smelling like a wino.

The Godless Matinee

A while ago I- with the help of all of you lovely lot- collected together a little playlist of songs with an atheist theme. It was a great post to write, and what I love about it is that I still get suggestions now, or will be absent mindedly listening to something and will think "ooh, I must add that to the list". I love very much that many of you now have atheist playlists on your MP3 playing devices, and that I've had a tiny part to play in that.

Its been at the back of my mind for a while that a similar list for films should be in existence, then I was kicked into action by the same suggestion from the lovely Alom Shaha. Great minds and all that, eh? So here we have it, a humble list of films with an atheist or godless theme.

Some House Rules first. Be warned that I am the sort of person who will get up halfway through a film to tell someone off for talking, or having their phone on during a film. Even minor rustling of food packaging drives me crazy. So may I politely request that you follow this Code of Conduct, and we'll all get along fine.

So, phones off? Right, well settle in, get comfy, and lets watch some films. 

Remember guys, let me know if you want anything added. email me at healthydoseofskepticism@gmail.com, tweet me @SparkleWildfire, or leave a comment. I'd love to include your reasoning for choosing the films too.

Miracle on 34th Street (1947) as suggested by @krypto: "All about the goodness of people. Polar opposite of religious remake"

Winter Light (1963) as suggested by @eyeswideshut75: "Bergman was tormented by atheism all his life.  i wouldn't say he was a one who celebrated it - to him one of the great pains in life was the silence of God, and this is never more evident than in Winter Light, Bergman's most unflinching and searing portrayal of personal, emotional and spiritual suffering.  the main character is a country priest who has lost his faith, but continues the rituals and tasks of his religion out of servitude, fear, a lack of anything else to do, out of service to his (ever dwindling and hopeless) congregation, and out of any cowardice to actually face up to this.  that Bergman's father was a strict Lutheran pastor adds whole new dimensions to the film." There you go, Ian, I did use more than two sentences after all.

The Wicker Man (1973) I recently rewatched this as part of an all-nighter at my beautiful local cinema, and it struck me how differently I viewed it now, as a more self-aware atheist than the first time I saw it. It seems like an odd choice at first glance, given it is entirely about belief of one form or another. But from an outside observer's perspective, its really interesting. Staunch catholic Sergeant Howie seems utterly repressed by his Catholic faith, whereas the paganism of the Summerisle residents initially seems full of freedom, but soon becomes a clear example of cargo cult science. In the end, all parties end up looking daft- the residents useless singing  in the face of failing crops whilst Sergeant Howie cries out in vain to Jesus, who can't save him from a fiery death. Oh, and sorry for the spoiler, but lets be honest here- the title is a spoiler anyway.

Carrie (1976) I only watched Carrie for the first time a couple of weeks ago. Not the most flattering depiction of religious families really, is it?

Life of Brian (1979) "He's not the Messiah. He's a very naughty boy!"

Star Trek V (1989) as suggested by @_TheGeoff.

 

Chocolat (2000). i add this on a Friday night of what has been an exhausting week. I've just watched Mother, a Korean film which is not what one would call a laugh riot, so I figured I had earned a sugary sweet, mindless film. (Mindless films are actually quite rare for me, with the exception of zombie films. I tend to shy away from anything that even vaguely resembles a rom com.) Its been over ten years since I saw this, so I had completely forgotten how atheist it is. And you can't beat a bit of Binoche.

Touching The Void (2003) as suggested by @damonayoung

Kingdom of Heaven (2005), as suggested by @JPSargeant78

Conversations with my Gardener Dialogue Avec Mon Jardinier (2007). This film has been chosen by North East Humanists as one for their film night next year. I haven't seen it yet, but am happy to take their word for it that it contains many of the sorts of values held by humanists.

Religulous (2008), as suggested by @epparry. I'm watching this as we speak, and crying laughing at the Holy Land Experience bit.

The Invention of Lying (2009) As mentioned in Alom's book.

A Serious Man (2009) as suggested by @Buster_Bear

Whatever Works (2009) I'm sure I saw somebody suggesting this but I can't find who it is, so my apologies

The Infidel (2010) in which a lapsed British Muslim finds out he is actually Jewish. Its not godless as such, but it does call into question the ridiculousness of hatred between the different factions of religion.

Four Lions (2010) because one if the only ways we have of dealing with the horrors of terrorism and religious freedom extremism is to make black comedies and laugh at it. When I saw it at the cinema I was left uncomfortable at the riotous laughter going on around me: its a film of hilarity mixed with deep sadness, but many appeared to be missing the sadness bit. Through the humour, the dangerous ridiculousness of violence based on religion is addressed, along with the manipulation it involves. In the end, you're left feeling that when it comes down to it, a belief in god is about as valid as a belief in rubber dinghy rapids.

The Ledge (2011) as suggested by Alom Shaha

Paul (2011) as suggested by @Alex250175. "beautiful moment of revelation"

Side Effects (2013) as suggested by @Dilip_Modhvadia. In his words "a good film apart from Jude Law's nauseating performance".

Philomena (2013) as suggested by the ever wonderful @obsolesence

 

Anything by Michael Bay. Because any merciful god would surely not allow such atrocities to exist.

 

Hxxx

An Atheist's Mixtape

High Fidelity by Nick Hornby is undoubtedly one of my favourite books. I have a very dog-eared copy which I have read many, many times, to the point where each time I re-read it I'm often surprised to find a line which I had assumed was actually my own thought, its so ingrained into my being. Yes, I'm the kind of person who cries at live and recorded music, and I'm one of the "people of a certain disposition (who) are frightened of being alone for the rest of their lives at twenty-six" (except for I had the same fear at much younger ages as well). Of course I've always wanted to be in a relationship with a musician so I can be mentioned in sleeve notes, and I have no idea what came first- the music or the misery, but I know that my love of music is probably responsible for my (now rather repressed) tendency to be hopelessly romantic.

So, when there was a bit of a conversation about atheist songs on Twitter this morning, it seemed the obvious thing to do to attempt a Barry-From-Championship-Vinyl-Style Desert-island, All-time Top five list of Songs for Atheists.

Of course I've failed miserably at this task: I've had so many suggestions that I can't bring myself to agonize over which should be cut, and in what order they should appear in. So instead, I give you a compilation, a mixtape of all your atheist suggestions.

"To me, making a tape is like writing a letter- there's a lot of erasing and rethinking and starting again... You've got ti kick off with a corker, to hold the attention... and then you've got to up it a notch, or cool it a notch, and you can't have white music and black music together, unless the white music sounds like black music, and you can't have two tracks by the same artist side by side, unless you've done the whole thing in pairs, and... oh there are loads of rules."

So stick these songs onto on your generic fruit-based MP3 player device, press shuffle, and enjoy.  If  you've made any of the suggestions, do  with your reasons so I can add them in, and I'll obviously be happy to add anything else you lovely folk care to suggest too.

God's Song by John Martyn: It may be controversial, but I'm going for the John Martyn version, mainly because I love pretty much everything that he has done. He is indeed one of the artists who have made me cry seeing them live. I think his tone and voice are particularly suited to this song.
 

Don't Fear The Reaper: Any version really, I tend to lean towards the one by Caesars, just because.
 

This Must Be The Place by Talking Heads: I'm not entirely sure why, as its not particularly atheist-based, but it sprung into my head and I have found myself listening to it a lot. I guess I just think its about being grounded in this life, by love rather than any vague notion of an imaginary god. I could, of course, be completely wrong, but its probably a bit safer than trying to shoehorn Psycho Killer in somewhere instead, as that would really annoy the Christians ;) I guess I should throw Heaven in there somewhere too.
 

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Churchhouse Blues by The Dodge Brothers: because why not throw in a bit of skiffle? And whilst I hate to see gin wasted, it would seem that burning church houses down with it could be seen as a worthy cause for many atheists.

God by John Lennon: as recommended by @deep_anchor

What If No-one's Watching? by Ani DiFranco: as recommended by Alom Shaha. It makes an appearance in his book and all, don't you know :)

I Don't Believe In You by Talk Talk: as suggested by @spiderkemp

Gone to Stay by Freakwater: as recommended by @kzelnio

Glory Hallelujah by Frank Turner: as recommended by @MarkRTurner and @jackpot73

Everything Alive Will Die Someday by George Hrab: as recommended by @RespectMyCrest

Intervention by Arcade Fire: as recommended by @RespectMyCrest

Blasphemous Rumours by Depeche Mode: as recommended by @RespectMyCrest

Eternal Life by Jeff Buckley: as recommended by @RespectMyCrest

Allow me to intervene again at this point to also put in Hallelujah, the Jeff Buckley version. And no, not just because I was-and probably am still- utterly in love with him, but that line:"And it's not a cry that you hear at night/ It's not somebody whose seen the light/ It's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah'... The way Jeff sings it has a devastating note of bitterness which...resonates. And yes, it is also about rude things which God would no doubt not approve of.

Wake Up by Arcade Fire: as recommended by @RespectMyCrest. by his own admission it may not be strictly atheist, but if I'm allowing myself This Must Be The Place, I'm allowing Joe his amazing songs also :)

No God, Only Religion by Spiritualized: as recommended by @astrotomato. Oh, and by the way, the pharmacy nerd in me loves Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space. That album packaging was just fantastic.

On and On by Tom McRrae: as recommended by @RespectMyCrest

Imagine by John Lennon: as recommended by @helgestad, @kasilas and @deep_anchor. It's true, it needs to be in the list. But I can't help but hear our old friend Barry from Championship Vinyl scathingly declaring that it's simply too obvious. 

Thank God I'm An Atheist by Al Baker: as recommended by @jackpot73

I Will Follow You Into The Dark by Death Cab for Cutie: as recommended by @jackpot73

Enjoy Yourself by The Specials (or any other version you fancy): It occurs to me that this could be the quintessential atheist/humanist anthem.

Epitaph by King Crimson: as recommended by @rupagulab

I Could Build You a Tower by Get Cape, Wear Cape, Fly. People who know me well will know that I think GCWCF (is) are one of the most consistently perfect bands (person) around nowadays. I therefore nominate this song, which isn't entirely about atheism but does address the age old problem of evil, fundamentalism etc. It's also very beautiful, as is the whole of the album Searching For The Hows And Whys, which I think is as close to an entirely perfect album as I have found. 

Dear God by XTC: as recommended by @PublicSerpentOz and @j2blather

God is a Spider by The Cherry Poppin Daddies: Not strictly an atheist song I guess, but one expressing a painful dissatisfaction with a god. Also: great band name for this sort of a list. And everyone needs more ska-swing-big band-punk in their lives.  

A Rational Response by Greydon Square: as recommended by Alom Shaha. Some welcome rap for our list. I must admit that despite a flirt with hip hop in my younger years I've never heard of Greydon Square, but a quick glance at his Wikipedia page suggests he's pretty interesting. And apparently he's also known as The Black Carl Sagan, so who could argue with that?

Had To Thank Someone For You by Nev Clay. Nev is a local folk singer who I first discovered when I was a teenager, and love his witty, beautiful music with a passion. I've just stumbled across this gorgeous little ditty and knew it was just perfect for this list- "but last night i knelt and prayed like a little kid again - i had to thank someone for you. and i don't know or care if anything was listening. i had to thank someone for you."

Atheist's Lament by Aidan Moffat  as recommended by @Jon Mendel. He's right, I'm not entirely sure how this has been left off the list for this long!

And clearly, no self-respecting atheist song list would be complete without a bit of Tim Minchin. As recommended by @obsolesence we're going with Ten Foot Cock and a Few Hundred Virgins and, of course The Pope Song.

So there we have it so far. Clearly, this is the sort of thing that I will lie awake at 3am thinking about ("OMG I need to put <insert obscure song> in, why didn't I think of that already, its so obvious. but not too obvious, obviously")