Sinatra, Atheist

There is an article making the rounds in social media quoting heavily from a 1963 Playboy interview with Frank Sinatra where the crooner/actor/showman takes on organized religion in a scathing diatribe.

Frank Sinatra was a great singer, and probably the best non-operatic male crooner of the twentieth century. He was a man of great decency and of great moral lapse, like most of us. And he says some things with which I agree. He is correct when he states that there is much evil done in the name of religion, and I agree wholeheartedly with his sentiment that:

“I’ve got no quarrel with men of decency at any level. But I can’t believe that decency stems only from religion. And I can’t help wondering how many public figures make avowals of religious faith to maintain an aura of respectability.”

But for all of his opinions, Old Blue Eyes came up short on theology. To give a single example, in the intervew he states that “over 25,000 organized religions flourish on this planet, but the followers of each think all the others are miserably misguided and probably evil as well.”

This statement is ought more than demagogic hogwash. Judaism, as most Jews and many non-Jews know, does NOT think the followers of other religions to be horribly misguided, but as legitimate faiths for their followers. That Sinatra should miss that point about a mainstream US faith underscores that he knew far too little about organized religion (outside, perhaps, the Roman Catholic Church) to pass broad judgement on all faiths with a single sweeping statement.

I won’t go into his refusal to recognize the positive contributions made by religions and their followers to the world and its culture. The Chairman was on a roll, and he was speaking to a captive audience of men who were tired of being told that their desires to drink and smoke to excess and copulate with anything with a pulse were, in fact, harmful in ways to go far deeper than the purely physical.

One last thought. It is ironic that atheists and anti-theists would hold up Sinatra’s remarks as being “ahead of their time.” This is true. Sinatra was ahead of his time in paiting all faiths and religions with the same broad tar brush without bothering to learn the facts. It was simply easier to condemn with a the prose of a true provocateur than to bother with the truth.


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