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View Diary: Thursday Classical Music Series: Brahms's Ein deutsches Requiem (46 comments)

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  •  I tend towards the notion (1+ / 0-)
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    that he was an atheist or at least an agnostic.  He described himself as a secular humanist.  He was very clear that he did not believe in an afterlife.

    But I'm not sure you can take it much farther than that.  There are a number of atheist fan sites out there that are eager to list Brahms as one of their own, but they did the same with Beethoven and with Thomas Paine.  Richard Dawkins's own site listed Beethoven and Paine, which is preposterous.

    One of the problems that taints and ruins the discussion of such things is that in the current environment, if you're not a fundamentalist, you must be, by process of elimination, an atheist.  Thus many dead people who can't speak for themselves get a free honorary membership in the club.  

    (The same thing seems to happen with bipolar disorder.  Every cool figure of history is supposed to be bipolar.  According to other bipolars.  Funny how that works out.)

    Once the language is contaminated, the discussion becomes contaminated.  By the definition above, "You seem to be misunderstanding what "atheism" means, as it is the lack of belief in gods," which I've heard before, a great many people who don't consider themselves atheists are classified as atheist.  The basic lack of agreement on a meaning for the word God means there are no common concepts and language for such a discussion.  I've been told straight-up by more than one person on Dailykos that I'm an atheist, and it puts me at a loss to explain why I'm not without getting into long explanations why that other people aren't prepared for because they have that whole toga and sandal thing stuck in their head.

    However, back to Brahms.  He doesn't seem to have been a deep theological thinker, so I don't think any of the above applies to him.  Agnostic or atheist seems appropriate.  He described himself as a freethinker and as a secular humanist, which seems vague enough.

    •  I guess I look at it from a slightly (2+ / 0-)
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      Dumbo, lone1c

      different perspective, that people tend to assume that if you don't explicitly state you're an atheist, they assume that if you did anything wonderfully creative and passionate that you at least have to be "spiritual."  Well, that really rubs me the wrong way, and thinking about my own legacy, I don't like the idea that after I've passed on, a bunch of people might try to co-opt me (much as you note Dawkins does with Paine, I'm not sure about Beethoven) as a fellow "spiritual" person, when I categorically am not.  But should I have to continually aver I'm an atheist to avoid that assumption?  

      I guess my overall point was that there is precisely zero evidence to suggest Brahms was in any way a "spiritual" person.  In fact, I'd say that everything I know about the man argues fervently against that notion.  And while the diarist in no way meant to rankle, I find the assumption-stated-as-fact in the diary to be inaccurate--if not outright untru--and warrants a clarification.  

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