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Tom Lehrer

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Lehrer is best known for his novelty songs, which range from the wacky "The Elements" (whose lyrics contain the names of all known elements in the Periodic Table) to such dark comedy numbers as "I Hold Your Hand In Mine" and "Poisoning Pigeons In The Park". He wrote and performed nearly all of his work during nine years at Harvard, but no longer performs.

From a June 1996 online interview:

Q: So do you consider yourself an atheist or an agnostic?

A: No one is more dangerous than someone who thinks he has The Truth. To be an atheist is almost as arrogant as to be a fundamentalist. But then again, I can get pretty arrogant.

Q: Are you not a fan of organized religion in general and are you a "spiritual" person?

A: To say that I am not a "fan" of organized religion is putting it mildly. My feeling about even disorganized religion is summed up in James Taylor's immortal line in "Sweet Baby James": "Maybe you can believe it if it helps you to sleep." I have no desire to promote secular insomnia. As for being "spiritual," not in the New Age sense, certainly. I find enough mystery in mathematics to satisfy my spiritual needs. I think, for example, that pi is mysterious enough (don't get me started!) without having to worry about God. Or if pi isn't enough, how about fractals? or quantum mechanics?


His song titled "The Vatican Rag" is none too subtle in his views about the Catholic church

First you get down on your knees,

Fiddle with your rosaries,

Bow your head with great respect,

And genuflect, genuflect, genuflect!


Do whatever steps you want if

You have cleared them with the Pontiff.

Everybody say his own Kyrie eleison,

Doin' the Vatican Rag.


Get in line in that processional,

Step into that small confessional.

There the guy who's got religion'll

Tell you if your sin's original.

If it is, try playin' it safer,

Drink the wine and chew the wafer,

Two, four, six, eight,

Time to transubstantiate!


So get down upon your knees,

Fiddle with your rosaries,

Bow your head with great respect,

And genuflect, genuflect, genuflect!


Make a cross on your abdomen,

When in Rome do like a Roman;

Ave Maria,

Gee, it's good to see ya.

Gettin' ecstatic an' sorta dramatic an'

Doin' the Vatican Rag!