Secular Right | Reality & Reason



Missing the Hymn

An unbeliever can enjoy a good hymn as much as the next man, as many have testified.  (G.B. Shaw, D.H. Lawrence, Kingsley Amis, and E.O Wilson come to mind.  Not sure about Bert Russell; but the religious side of his family were some minimalist nonconformist sect IIRC, and so probably disapproved of hymns anyway.)

This week is Fleet Week in New York City.  I attended a Fleet Week function on Wednesday, watched the ships sailing up the Hudson, and hobnobbed with some naval and USMC personnel — most enjoyable and instructive.

At no point, however, did I get to hear the Navy Hymn, which is in my personal Top Five.  I cannot let this stand.

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  • Florida resident · May 27, 2010 at 10:58 am

    Beautiful hymn indeed.
    Thank you, dear Bradlaugh !
    Your F.r.

  • Susan · May 27, 2010 at 11:01 am

    Gorgeous. As a secular conservative aesthete, I was wondering if “Ave Maria” was on your Top Five list. Renata Tebaldi’s rendition is ravishing.

  • John · May 27, 2010 at 2:28 pm

    So that’s the song I heard on that one Monty Python episode!

  • Cyg · May 27, 2010 at 6:56 pm

    A stirring arrangement of that hymn can easily bring a lump to this old atheist’s throat. Apparently, I am helpless to feel otherwise. Stanford neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky says people’s openness to new types of music tends to wane in their late 30’s.

    So, if it stirred you when you were young, it will stir you all your life. Thank goodness for iPods so I can secretly listen to gospel music even as I mock the irrationality that inspired it.

  • mike shupp · May 31, 2010 at 3:07 am

    That was very nice! From a cynical agnostic, Thank You!

  • reader · May 31, 2010 at 9:23 pm

    As a lovely anachronistic expression of artistic license, that hymn is the one used in the chapel scene in the recent film version of Moby Dick:

    The anachronism is that the hymn was written after Moby Dick was published.

  • JT · June 1, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    Some of the very finest 20th century hymns (and other music appropriate for the religious service) were composed by Ralph Vaughan Williams, a non-believer.

  • Gene Berman · June 5, 2010 at 11:21 pm

    Damn–only punched because I mistakenly thought it was a “missing hymen” being discussed and, thus, found the comments bewildering.


  • Steve Bodio · June 9, 2010 at 9:34 am

    The last volume of the still underrappreciated evo- bio genius William Hamilton’s collected papers has both a eulogy by Dawkins and the– I, raised Papist, assume C of E– hymn (with music) sung at his funeral. I confess I rather like the juxtaposition.



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