Jack Black: ‘I’m Kind of an Atheist’ April 24, 2012

Jack Black: ‘I’m Kind of an Atheist’

In an interview on NPR’s Fresh Air yesterday, Jack Black stated that he was an atheist who got his “spiritual needs” in other ways.

You can hear it around the 14:10 mark in the interview:

“I don’t have any real spirituality in my life — I’m kind of an atheist — but when music can take me to the highest heights, it’s almost like a spiritual feeling. It fills that void for me.”

Not that everyone has to “fill that spiritual void,” but it’s nice to hear another celebrity speak so casually about not believing in a god.

(Thanks to Randall for the link!)

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  • I heard the interview yesterday in my car. I can’t wait for the day where people won’t couch their proclamation of godlessness.

  • Dustin

    Anyone who has ever listened to his Tenacious D album could probably have guessed this. Still, glad to see another big name in our corner.

  • Drew

    I think this is one of those situations where “spiritual” is used in reference to that numinous sensation which can be inspired by art or religion. It’s a shame that so many people use the word in that fashion, since it also smacks of the kind of atheistic spiritualism practiced by some in the New Age movement. Fairly few atheists deny the emotional power of beautiful art, so Jack really shouldn’t have needed to clarify that point. It’s another example of how people feel the need to go out of their way to avoid the stigma, but it’s great that he didn’t shy away from the term itself.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Fairly few atheists deny the emotional power of beautiful art…
    The word spiritual is ambiguous; it may include belief in the supernatural or not. The word emotional covers all the aspects of the word spiritual which with I could agree. I guess for a lot of people, calling something emotional is somehow belittling it.

  • ganner918

    I avoid using the word spiritual for that reason. Like most things, I don’t take it to the point of telling others how to use the language, but to me the word spiritual is inseparably tied up in supernatural connotations.

  • Sweet! Now our “appeal to celebrity” fallacy has teeth!

  •  I think we all need to fill a “spiritual void”, but I hate the term spirituality since it is so often tied to belief in the supernatural. Sam Harris does well when he talks about transcendent experiences. We all strive for them and cherish them. There’s nothing better, to me, than when I’m ‘in the zone’ playing sports… that is my “spirituality”, though I’ll never refer to it as such.

    Live life, strive for powerful experiences, and enjoy!

  • Xeon2000

    I know where he’s coming from. I get that same sense of awe and wonder when I read about distant galaxies or the mysteries of the human mind. I feel all giddy like I’m 5 years old and it’s Christmas morning. It’s the possibility of amazing discovery and learning that excites me. Music does it too, especially electronic or classical–for different reasons though. Other things in life illicit that “natural high” in many different ways. It’s the first thing atheists think about when they hear the tired line “atheist have nothing to live for and no passions”. We have TONS of passions! These are all our passions, interests, and inspirations!

  • Jeff Sherry

    I have no problem with the emotional label. Spiritual carries too many  bags of poundage of the supernatural.

  • Denis Robert

    He might say he’s an atheist, and that may be true in a manner of speaking, but Black has made statements in the past (and in song lyrics) that imply that he’s actually a scientologist…

  • eonL5

    You just did (nyuk nyuk)

  • Moribund Cadaver

    If ever there is a word that should be “taken back” in the future, it’s spiritual.

    A problem with “emotional” is that in most common understandings, emotional doesn’t cut it. For starters, emotional directly refers to the emotions – and only the emotions. There’s nothing wrong with emotions!

    But the states of mind that people often refer to in the context of art, extreme experiences, or meditation, are combinations of the intellectual and the emotional. It’s about an overall state of mind.

    The word “spiritual” has been dragged through the mud, but I think atheists are doing it a disservice by not bothering to stop and clarify some things when the word comes up. Spirituality has, by itself, nothing to do with religion (or organized religion). On the subject of the “supernatural”, that term should be clarified as referring explicitly to phenomenon that are claimed to be outside the realm of physical reality and ALSO incomprehensible to science.

    I think the term “spiritual” is most appropriate when defined as “a subjective state of human experience that encourages reflection and inspiration”. Spiritual refers to the subjective inner world of a person. Supernatural refers to phenomenon in the external world.

  • TheAnalogKid

    He’s kinda an actor, too.

  • Moribund Cadaver

    Ironically, it’s also Sam Harris who has said the term “atheist” shouldn’t exist ordinarily and under better circumstances would be a kind of unnecessary distinction to draw.

    I’ve seen that he understands there is value to some of what “spiritual” describes but is afraid of the baggage attached to it. I’ll admit, transcendent is a workable stand-in, though the word sounds kind of grandiose so I’d have trouble using it in a lot of contexts myself.

    In the same way that eventually the word atheist might be no longer required as a label, spiritual is another word that could stand to be re-defined and used in a way that’s not attached to claims or theories of the supernatural.

  • He’s a huge Rush fan and made an appearance on stage with them last tour.  Rush has been doing athiest themes for close to 40 years and some really straightforward athiest stuff on the recent albums.  So it doesn’t surprise me a bit to see him get his spirituality from music and be an athiest. 

  • Swoodbyrn

    I know exactly what he’s talking about. I feel like one of those crazies who lose their mind and speak in tongues when I play my instruments. It makes me wonder if the two produce similar responses in similar parts of the brain.

  • TheAnalogKid

    Yeah, but Neil Peart also did his Ayn Rand themes, too. I try to overlook it.

  • Alex

    As a musician, I think I can totally understand what he’s saying.

  • Neil

    I’m pretty sure that his references to scientology and dianetics are satirical.  From the Tenacious D song “Kielbasa”:

    “I see you walking,
    but all I can think about is
    your butt cheeks is warm”

    and later in the song:
    “Dianetics cure ya much better than Krishna,Dianetics cure ya much better indeed,And all you people here you’re tremendous,(Except the people in the middle),And you’re smokin’ up a big-ass bowl of weedWith me, me and KG.”

    I could be wrong, but it doesn’t sound too devout.

  • Neil

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with the trend of noticing and publicizing the fact that there are well-known, creative, and successful non-believers.  Since nobody is arguing any point, or asking anybody to believe, not believe, or do anything because of Black’s atheism, I’m pretty sure there is no fallacy involved.  You seem to be about halfway to a beautiful non-sequitur, though. 

    I’m not fully sure how you meant your brief comment, but on many skeptical sites, anytime anybody famous is so much as mentioned for any reason there is a huge, whining chorus of “appeal to celebrity, appeal to authority, OMG, here comes the cult of personality!!!!!”  It gets annoying.  

    Sorry to be a pain in the butt if that’s not how you meant it. 

  • Choose Freewill

    I will always choose Freewill

  • This makes me feel MUCH better that my toddler’s favorite episode of Yo Gabba Gabba guest stars Jack Black. And here I thought it was because I listened to tons of Tenacious D while pregnant…

  • BoGardiner

     Well put.  I strongly agree. 

    The term “spiritual” is far too culturally pervasive to hope to reduce its usage in favor of another term.  I’ve long felt we should instead reach out and pull its blanket over us.  

    I’ve used it in conversations with religionists for many years — while firmly declaring my atheism and Skepticism, without being an accommodationist — and find it incredibly disarming and bridge-building.  The progressives usually get it quickly and allow me to redefine the word without much argument.

    It’s no cynical ploy… I was once deeply religious, and find humanism yields a very similar emotional experience.  But far more rewarding, as it’s no longer masking that nagging little voice of incredulity and unworthiness that I believe troubles nearly all religionists.

  • BoGardiner

     Dang, I picked the wrong prog rock band in high school to fall in love with.  I was religious then and adored Yes, including their religious and new age allusions.  After my conversion, it was too late to switch horses, and I remain a Yes-head.

    Fortunately, the lyrics are so weirdly meaningless it’s easy to disregard them and just enjoy Jon Anderson’s voice as an instrument.

  • BoGardiner

     Those all do it for me too. 

    My biggest and fortunately almost everyday highs come from flora, fauna and landscapes here on Earth.

    I am continually bewildered that all this marvelous nature is so invisible to most people, while they search instead for truly invisible “supernature”  (has anyone ever used that term as a form related to “supernatural”?)  Now that’s missing the forest for the trees.

  • Littlelamb

    there are a lot of actors, musicians, etc who are either agnostic or atheist, sometimes you just have to see their twitter..Jessica Alba follows Bill Maher..

  • LifeInTraffic

    I heard this on yesterday’s show, and admit to doing a little happy dance in my car. While I’m probably one of about 3 people who listen to NPR in this town, it was still nice to hear.

  • Neil

    Big Yes fan and non-believer here…Anderson uses a lot of religious imagery and vaguely new-agey sounding stuff, but I never picked up any heavily-religious kind of stuff….it seems to me more like “spiritual” in the Joseph Campbell sense….totems, religious imagery as a dramatic tool or presenting symbolic meaning for life, that kind of crap.  Fluffy but harmless. 

  • Holmes73

    I feel sad for you all. You think you and the universe are all here by just sheer luck. The day of judgment will come, and when you stand before God, trying to explain why you did not believe in Him or his teachings..i will truly feel sorry for you.

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