Army Atheist Concert Emphasizes Controversial Song in Lineup

Rock Beyond Belief, the atheist event billed as a counter to the previous Christian Rock the Fort, has clearly announced a previously controversial song will be featured in its lineup.

In January, FoxNews carried the story of Aiden’s Hysteria, whose music video showed burning churches while the lyrics said religion “distorts the truth” and called for its “death.”

At the time, the lead organizer of the event, Justin Griffith, was quoted in the FoxNews article saying this was a faux controversy — though the public reaction, and Fort Bragg’s, seemed to differ.  While the FoxNews piece focused on ‘images of burning churches,’ the issue has always been Aiden’s lyrics that criticized religion.  Now, Griffith makes a point of stating Aiden will perform Hysteria [emphasis original]: 

They will be playing this song.

To be clear, neither FoxNews nor this site ever claimed they needed to drop the song.  The question was only whether it met the military requirements for performance at Fort Bragg — which included the stipulation that performers not make “statements that are critical of other religions.”  They could theoretically change the lyrics, of course, though the song might end up being an instrumental — since the vast majority of the song is critical of religion.  That’s its point, after all:

Love how they [redacted]
Love how they [redacted]
Filling [redacted]
Filling [redacted]
Faith holding [redacted]
This is just the world we live in
Can you justify the pain
The death of [redacted]
We live We die
I wont give up
In a world worth saving goodbye
I don’t have anything to fear
I live, I live hysteria
Wait supporting [redacted]
Hate [redacted]
A message to your herd
Our voices will be heard
Now faith is a question you can choose
Faith whether Christian, Muslim, Jew
Still you all [redacted]
The death of [redacted]
Searching for the answers are
you asking all the questions
Will the evidence suffice your fear
Human evolution is the only real solution
All the truth you gotta hear
Would you stand and fight

Actually, if they don’t mind humming a few bars and repeating the chorus a lot, they might be able to do it.  On the other hand, when he defended the song, Griffith actually validated the complaints of those who have questioned the lyrics, saying of lead singer William Control:

He’s being sardonic.

“Sardonic” means “grimly mocking or cynical.”  Griffith admits the event’s “atheist anthem” mocks religion, in violation of the military’s guidance on other similar (religious) events.  Remember, they’re supposed to make no “statements that are critical of other religions.”

In the same defensive blog, Griffith continues the persecuted-atheist mantra by referencing the chaplain previously cited here, saying [emphasis original]:

Now an evangelical chaplain is demanding that Fort Bragg cancels [sic] our event, in an open letter to the commanders [sic].

Griffith links to the letter — which says no such thing.  As with prior melodramatic claims of atheist martyrdom, the accusations are factually incorrect.  In fact, US Army Chaplain (Capt) Chuck Williams — formerly of Fort Bragg, and currently deployed to Afghanistan — specifically said the opposite [emphasis added]:

I share no objection with the Fort Bragg community permitting the ‘Rock Beyond Belief’ event itself, billed to promote atheism and secular humanism, as long as it is held civility and respectfully.

As previously noted, Chaplain Williams does take issue, as many have, with the critical tone toward religion upon which the Rock Beyond Belief performers rely, asking not that the event be cancelled, as Griffith claims, but that it be held to the same standards as Rock the Fort:

I humbly request and appeal for your staff to strongly advise the promoters and participants of this event that no such display of wanton disrespect, as well as the promoting of violence towards those who believe in God through verbal and visual means will be tolerated in the Fort Bragg community.

Chaplain Williams does say those who promote disrespect and violence should not be given the Fort Bragg venue — but unless that’s how Griffith is characterizing his own event, it is clear the chaplain did not call for Fort Bragg to “cancel[]” the event.

The chaplain accurately notes the feeling of much of the religious community:  Griffith and his fellow atheists should be free “to promote atheism and secular humanism.”  They simply need to “celebrate reason,” rather than “denigrate religion” — which, at every turn, seems to be what they really want to do.  (This may be due, in part, to atheism’s status as an asterisk on Christianity; atheism has no ideology independent of religion.)

Rock Beyond Belief organizers, and Griffith himself, are likely understandably frustrated.  They should take comfort, though, in knowing they’re getting exactly what they asked for:  Rock the Fort, too, endured scrutiny (arguably, more than Rock Beyond Belief).  In fact, more than one group called Rock the Fort unconstitutional and demanded it be cancelled — while no mainstream organization has done the same for the atheist “counter” to the Christian event.

All Rock Beyond Belief has to do is follow the same rules as every other event.  They’ve claimed they’re going to be “family friendly.”  The Army has said they will be held to the same standards as other events, which included not being “critical” of other religions.

If they wanted to end some of the public concern, Rock Beyond Belief could announce that Aiden’s songs would be filtered of critical statements of religion, and Richard Dawkins, Michael Weinstein, and other speakers had been instructed not to make critical statements.

(If they have questions, though, they probably shouldn’t ask the MRFF’s Chris Rodda.  She seems confused about what would be permissible.)

If they can follow the same rules as everyone else, they’ll be just fine.  They only have reason to be concerned if they can’t do that.

Interestingly, they seem concerned.