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Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Do you love Jesus?

I'm just curious... if you're comfortable talking about it... what's the religious background or experience of some of the people that read this blog? Were you raised Catholic and wound up agnostic? Are you currently attending regular church or temple? Are you an atheist?

How do you think that affects your work as an artist/critic/enthusiast? Does it?

UPDATE: Wow, quite a few responses to this question! If you haven't yet, I encourage you to take a look.


isaac said...

raised as a very devout Christian Scientist (dad's side) heavily steeped in secular jewish culture (mom's side). now atheist.

MattJ said...

Raised Mormon. Baptized Mormon.

I actually don't remember much of it belief structure wise. I remember going. My family stopped when I was 12 or 13 I think.

What I really remember is when my family left they were like vultures trying to get us to come back to the church. They even had other boys my age call me in an ambush operation to make me feel guilty and come back to the church.

I'm agnostic now. Can't come down on anything yet. Probably never will. At one point I was convinced I was atheist, but that was always a much more intellectual decision that I didn't feel 100% comfortable with at the time. Something always pulls me to the middle.

Brian said...

I love him in the Biblical sense.

Atheist, actually. Raised Catholic, flirted with being agnostic for a while, finally acknowledged and embraced my atheism a couple of years ago.

I'm not sure how it influences my art, although it's such a big part of who I am that it must in some way. Maybe it makes me a bit more analytical, less willing to take everything at face value than I used to be. More likely it's simply removed negative influences, rather than having any specific positive effect.

Adam said...

Raised catholic. Now agnostic with buddhist leanings.

Travis Bedard said...


Devout ministry-leaning Non-denominational Christian

Now agnostic.

I think it leads to a lot more cynicism than is strictly necessary in my work (and in life). My childlike sense of wonder has some dings in it.

Kyle said...

I prayed exactly once, for God to stop my parents from getting divorced.


Ian W. Hill said...

Raised Catholic, went to Catholic school Kindergarden-3rd Grade, though it was very ex-hippie, Catholic-Lite style. Had some vague feelings toward belief in the Divine. Baptised, had First Communion, never Confirmed.

Agnostic through most of high school and college.

Found Christ in early 20s after seeing the Scorcese film on opening performance, opening day at the Ziegfield. Became devoted to the Gospels (and the letters of Paul, feeling the remainder of the New Testament too far from the source and corrupt).

After extensive textual Bible study, in early 30s suddenly realized Bible was the same as all other mythologies in the world (ie; pleasant fiction), read up lots more on science. Became Atheist, pretty strongly, helped by outright anti-theist life-partner's influence (she has NEVER had a scrap of Divine belief).

When I started creating theatre, I saw many of my pieces as kinds of "Christian Parables," and did one outright large statement of faith in creating a production of T.S. Eliot's The Rock, his Christian pageant.

Now I do much the same thing, but from a non-superstition-based perspective (fewer Gods, Angels, and Mysterious Beings showing up). It was hard when I restaged Film Is Evil: Radio Is Good, because I'd created my original production from a position of faith, and it was integral to the piece, but I was able to justify those parts as metaphoric when I redid it.

Since becoming Atheist, I've been a bit harder and nastier about people and problems than I once was in my shows - not believing in any way that anybody but us are going to fix our own problems. I've become more worshipful of the strange power of Art, which takes up most of the place of the Divine in my life.

Though I do continue to read the gospels from time to time even now, as I find the story and words of Jesus incredibly moving and inspirational.

Anonymous said...

Went to a Lutheran elementary school and was baptized in that church. Attended a Catholic high school, then spent two years at a Methodist university. Have been an atheist since my junior year in college.

Freeman said...

Holy Christ, that's a lot of atheists.

Ian... I think the idea that you were brought to Jesus (albeit briefly) by Martin Scorcese says a great deal about you and how you spend your time.

Just an observation.

LB said...

Went to presbyterian sunday school from the age of 4-6. Told my mother I thought they spoke down to us. We stopped going. That was the end or religion for our family.

I suppose I am vaguely agnostic.

David said...

Moderately religious upbringing, Southern Protestants. Tried being agnostic or atheist for a while in my 20s while having lots of sex. Started going back to church over 10 years ago, attend regularly, take communion, pray, say the Nicene Creed like I mean it. (I did oversleep the annual congregation meeting last week.) Consider myself a believer, a Christian. Not terribly good at being a Christian, but a believer nonetheless. Don't know how it affects my work, or if it affects it at all.

I don't talk about it much, because frankly there are too many people with cable networks and insane opinions talking about it all the damn time...

Joshua said...

Raised Methodist, went to a Methodist college, probably at that time more religious than most in my family.

During college, after finally looking at the bible at length, concluded logically that it was a mess and unlikely to be the work on person or supreme being and became an atheist.

After some time, had a brief fling with Scientology, thankfully got outa that, then got involved in Buddhism, most disciplines which allow for critical thinking, which I like.

I'd note that my experiences have showed me that a thinking person can still be rational practice much of Buddhism without suspending too much, if any, observational rationality.

That's why I like it.

Jaime said...

Raised not-very-religiously Jewish. Went to Hebrew Day School for six years because it was good private school, so well steeped in cultural whatnot. Settled on Agnostic when I was in high school. Am still, devoutly, even proselytizingly, there. Though I still enjoy myself a good Passover seder.

Matt, could I steal your "Holy Christ, that's a lot of atheists" for a possible future blog subtitle/tagline?

Freeman said...

Jaime -

If could reduce the Gospels to two words they would be:

"Please steal."


david d. said...

Once you're on this list, expect Matt Freeman to keep it. Like Santa.

Zack said...

Raised Catholic, went to Catholic school for 8 years. Love the history, pageantry, and mysticism of the Catholic Church as the way a historian might, but do not agree with many of it's hypocritical policies (i.e. God is love, but hates gay people, etc.)

I do believe in God, and feel his presence in my life. I cannot tell you how many times I felt he was there for me. I pray fairly regularly as well, just don't go to Church much. I hope that answers the question.

TD said...

Raised Jewish (conservative), Hebrew school three times a week through age 13, Bat Mitzvah. Dropped all of it immediately after. Brief resurgence of interest in Judaism and temple attendance after a free Birthright Israel trip in college. Now agnostic.

It wasn't all for naught artistically, though. For instance, I really *get* Fiddler on the Roof.

And Trayf.

August Schulenburg said...

I was raised an atheist and have remained one. I wish it were otherwise. The certainty of our mutual personal extinctions unsettles me on an almost daily basis, though it does lend an useful urgency to my personal pursuit of happiness, a deep respect verging on awe of other lives, and a heightened gratitude for every good thing. Usually I keep those cards pretty close to my chest, however, as that aces and eights can seem pretty grim when laid on the table. And, actually, I seem happier than most in my life, thanks I guess to good parents and a well-balanced cocktail of a brain.
And that affects everything regarding how and why I write.
And thanks for asking! This is more atheists I've ever seen in one particular fox hole.

RLewis said...

ok, so Kyle above broke my heart - spare and piercing.

My parents took my sister and I to a baptist church for a while when we were young - dropped us off and picked us up after. Not an effective technique for continued observation.

10 years ago I discovered Judson Church when my theater group needed a place to do a show, and I had heard that they used to do theater there. Did the show, and have been attending on Sundays ever since.

I like that Judson does not anthropomorphize god.

Inteligence, introspection, fellowship, global awareness, social justice, art/entertainment - lots of reasons to attend, but ya rarely see a bible.

Mac said...

Raised Unitarian. Barely ever think about faith when I'm not being creative, but for some reason I return to it repeatedly as a theme when writing plays.

Anonymous said...

raised Episcopalian. Did a lot of youth group things growing up. In undergrad I just stopped going to church. Not because I stopped believing, but because it wasn't convenient and it didn't fit with all the parting I was doing.
A few years later after getting married, going to grad school, and beginning to think about having a family, my husband and I talked about going back to church. He was raised Baptist, and spent a good chunk of time in undergrad as a religious studies major. But we weren't interested in the Episcopal church or the Baptist church. Ended up converting to Russian Orthodoxy a few years ago. We are extremely active in our parish. My husband is a sub-deacon and will most likely be ordained a deacon in the next year.
The thing I like about Orthodoxy is that in informs every aspect of life. And art in the form of icons is essential to the church.
-Danielle Wilson

Qui Nguyen said...

Growing up, my folks raised us as Baptists on Sunday and Buddhists the other six days of the week. Which means of course I now have a deeply profound relationship to words beginning with the letter "B". As a kid, I grew up devoutly confused, but since then have figured out that if you truly believe in something with all your heart and soul, then, yes, The Giants can indeed win the Superbowl. And, yes, it could be against the only 18-0 team in all of NFL history. And I ain't joking. This was a thoroughly religious moment for me.

Abby's Jewish. She's a better person than me. I think that says something.

Bottom line: I'm hugely spiritual in my own way, but I still ain't gonna go skydiving without a parachute.

John said...

Irish-Catholic from St. Louis, which is still a major Catholic stronghold.

It's called St. Louis, for Christ's sake.

Two of my father's uncles were in the clergy, one a brother, the other a priest.

American Irish-Catholics are more culturally Catholic than religiously so, we're wildly superstitious, convinced we're all going to get our asses kicked by some Big Mean God someday and also convinced we deserve it. And there's a lot of drinking and crying and telling of awful jokes while your dead relatives lay in a casket at the front of the funeral parlour looking like waxworks.

Got born-again when I was sixteen, did that for about a year. Loved it. Spent the year taking acid and smoking pot and drinking with my buddies six days a week and then going out to Kirkwood (where that guy just shot up the town) and praying ecstactically in a church packed with young people. Realized after a year that the whole thing was operating in a cult fashion, keeping people tired, taking young kids with fucked-up lives (and who's life isn't fucked up when you're sixteen) and showing that Jesus was the answer. Also, there was some sexual shit that was going on, never got outright molested, but man, some of those priests liked to hug the young men and women for a little longer than would be considered cool.

Drifted for awhile, never really lost the faith that something much larger and more interesting is going on than Science or evolution or tectonic plate theory.

Something's going on.

Acid actually was very helpful, and so were mushrooms, to keep the wonder alive and remember that what we see and think we know is mostly determined by dead ways of thinking and perceiving.

Read a lot of Buddhist stuff and that's the first faith I ever found that makes practical sense. So now, I consider myself an American Pop Buddhist. In our faith:

Jesus Christ is Luke Skywalker.

God Our Father is Morgan Freeman, of course.

And the Holy Ghost is Jonathan Livingston Seagull.

I grew up in the 70s after all.

Thanks for this post, man. Fun to talk about and great to get the read on other folks.

John said...

Didn't answer the question, sorry.

Don't think it really affects the work much. Or effects it. Never got those two straight.

Everything you've got, spiritual, ethical, political, ethnic, physical and the dream you had last night go into your work when you walk into the room. Silly trying to parse it out. Leave that to the critic.