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Frank Sinatra’s views on organized religion were decades ahead of his time

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The interview originally appeared in Playboy Magazine in 1963, and it demonstrates the timeless performer’s incredibly deep and evolved thoughts on organized religion – thoughts that rival many of today’s scholarly critics of faith.

I came across this old interview with Frank Sinatra recently, and needless to say, it was surprising.

The interview originally appeared in Playboy Magazine in 1963, and it demonstrates the timeless performer’s incredibly deep and evolved thoughts on organized religion – thoughts that rival many of today’s scholarly critics of faith.

Check out this excerpt:

Playboy: Are you a religious man? Do you believe in God?

Sinatra: Well, that’ll do for openers. I think I can sum up my religious feelings in a couple of paragraphs. First: I believe in you and me. I’m like Albert Schweitzer and Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein in that I have a respect for life — in any form. I believe in nature, in the birds, the sea, the sky, in everything I can see or that there is real evidence for. If these things are what you mean by God, then I believe in God. But I don’t believe in a personal God to whom I look for comfort or for a natural on the next roll of the dice. I’m not unmindful of man’s seeming need for faith; I’m for anything that gets you through the night, be it prayer, tranquilizers or a bottle of Jack Daniel’s. But to me religion is a deeply personal thing in which man and God go it alone together, without the witch doctor in the middle. The witch doctor tries to convince us that we have to ask God for help, to spell out to him what we need, even to bribe him with prayer or cash on the line. Well, I believe that God knows what each of us wants and needs. It’s not necessary for us to make it to church on Sunday to reach Him. You can find Him anyplace. And if that sounds heretical, my source is pretty good: Matthew, Five to Seven, The Sermon on the Mount.

Playboy: You haven’t found any answers for yourself in organized religion?

Sinatra: There are things about organized religion which I resent. Christ is revered as the Prince of Peace, but more blood has been shed in His name than any other figure in history. You show me one step forward in the name of religion and I’ll show you a hundred retrogressions. Remember, they were men of God who destroyed the educational treasures at Alexandria, who perpetrated the Inquisition in Spain, who burned the witches at Salem. 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. In India they worship white cows, monkeys and a dip in the Ganges. The Moslems accept slavery and prepare for Allah, who promises wine and revirginated women. And witch doctors aren’t just in Africa. If you look in the L.A. papers of a Sunday morning, you’ll see the local variety advertising their wares like suits with two pairs of pants.

Playboy: Hasn’t religious faith just as often served as a civilizing influence?

Sinatra: Remember that leering, cursing lynch mob in Little Rock reviling a meek, innocent little 12-year-old Negro girl as she tried to enroll in public school? Weren’t they — or most of them — devout churchgoers? I detest the two-faced who pretend liberality but are practiced bigots in their own mean little spheres. I didn’t tell my daughter whom to marry, but I’d have broken her back if she had had big eyes for a bigot. As I see it, man is a product of his conditioning, and the social forces which mold his morality and conduct — including racial prejudice — are influenced more by material things like food and economic necessities than by the fear and awe and bigotry generated by the high priests of commercialized superstition. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m for decency — period. I’m for anything and everything that bodes love and consideration for my fellow man. But when lip service to some mysterious deity permits bestiality on Wednesday and absolution on Sunday — cash me out.

Playboy: But aren’t such spiritual hypocrites in a minority? Aren’t most Americans fairly consistent in their conduct within the precepts of religious doctrine?

Sinatra: 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. Our civilization, such as it is, was shaped by religion, and the men who aspire to public office anyplace in the free world must make obeisance to God or risk immediate opprobrium. Our press accurately reflects the religious nature of our society, but you’ll notice that it also carries the articles and advertisements of astrology and hokey Elmer Gantry revivalists. We in America pride ourselves on freedom of the press, but every day I see, and so do you, this kind of dishonesty and distortion not only in this area but in reporting — about guys like me, for instance, which is of minor importance except to me; but also in reporting world news. How can a free people make decisions without facts? If the press reports world news as they report about me, we’re in trouble.

Playboy: Are you saying that . . .

Sinatra: No, wait, let me finish. Have you thought of the chance I’m taking by speaking out this way? Can you imagine the deluge of crank letters, curses, threats and obscenities I’ll receive after these remarks gain general circulation? Worse, the boycott of my records, my films, maybe a picket line at my opening at the Sands. Why? Because I’ve dared to say that love and decency are not necessarily concomitants of religious fervor.

Playboy: If you think you’re stepping over the line, offending your public or perhaps risking economic suicide, shall we cut this off now, erase the tape and start over along more antiseptic lines?

Sinatra: No, let’s let it run. I’ve thought this way for years, ached to say these things. Whom have I harmed by what I’ve said? What moral defection have I suggested? No, I don’t want to chicken out now. Come on, pal, the clock’s running.

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331 Comments

331 Comments

  1. Lila Richards

    June 8, 2015 at 4:16 am

    I wonder how he felt about organised crime…

  2. Bob Loblah

    June 13, 2015 at 2:14 am

    13Jun15…..When Frankie baby was starting out, it was the grand old mafia that used to buy up ALL his records to give the public the general impression that he was really selling lots and doing well. However, this put Frankie in debt to the ‘ boys ‘ so much so that when he welched on the deal they had his son kidnapped and eventually got some money out of it. Frankie tried to hide in the bosom of JFK….but became frightened schidtless when the mafia got JFK in their crosshairs for ‘ shagging ‘ one to many women who turned out to be the girlfriend of one of the head hunchos. And that’s the truth……
    Forever and Ever
    BobLoblah

  3. Manny Naffa

    July 24, 2015 at 2:08 am

    Simply he was pure secular without tying himself to an organized religious or atheist group.

  4. Bob Loblah

    July 26, 2015 at 8:39 pm

    27Jul15…..BobLoblah wouldn’t say that Frank tied himself to an atheist group…..he believed in God and told Baba Wadda so in an interview with her several years before he ‘ croaked. ‘ Mind you, he had ‘ prayer beads ‘ on his night stand along with a copy of the ‘ Catholic ‘ bible as he punched in his last round of living. When he sucked in his last breath, he uttered……” please God, forgive me “……no so much unlike the letter read out at the funeral of Teddyboy Kennedy who was a hell raiser back in the day and used women more than John Wayne and that’s sayin’ somethin’…..Go figure…

    Forever and Ever
    BobLoblah

  5. Pingback: Frank Sinatra’s views on organized religion were decades ahead of his time | profjoseandre

  6. Mr. Cook

    September 15, 2015 at 3:43 pm

    A dyslexic agnostic insomniac stays up all night wondering if there’s a Dog.

  7. Ron Morales

    October 19, 2015 at 12:16 am

    There was nothing “ahead of his time” about these comments. These have been standard, facile criticisms of religion for a long time, and many of such criticisms are just historically ignorant, such as the oft uttered myth that Christianity has been the source of most of the wars of history (one just needs to list off all the wars they can think of to see how wildly wrong that myth is), or his unsubstantaited claim that religion has made many more steps backwards than steps forward. These are just ignorant atheist platitudes abd bumper sticker slogans that are contradicted by a rudimentary study of history. Christianity for one has been a civilizing force that eliminated child sacrifice, blood feuds in Europe, slavery, propelled the progressive and civil rights movements, was the source of countless pieces of artwork, music and history, inspired scientists to understand the handiwork of God, kept writing alive in Europe, and inspired countless charitable movements, etc.

    • Bob Loblah

      October 21, 2015 at 1:17 am

      21Oct15…..and you Mr. Ron Morales are a breath of fresh air. A rose among the thorns. How great thou arth with thy words of actualities and ‘ crispy ‘ crunching facts that has personified Christianity throughout the ages. Hatheists are indeed the main cause of the wrong and inept excuses made by excuses for human beings who are nothing more than schidt-for-brains.
      Someday, these miscreants will get their comeuppance as they begin to ‘ suck in ‘ their last breath and stick out their eyeballs while crying for their mommies.
      Ps: Keep up the good work and keep down the evil ones………Go figure…..Bob Loblah

  8. Jay Whitney

    November 14, 2015 at 9:12 am

    Yeh, ghosted–way too articulate and literary for FrankS

    • Bob Loblah

      January 29, 2016 at 2:06 am

      30Jan16…..’ ol Frank had very little education. Ps: His momma swore like a drunken longshoreman. Guess that’s where the quips rubbed off. Anyways, he didn’t do to bad for the son of an abortionist with a clothing hanger….Go figure..Bob Loblah

  9. Robert DeMars

    December 1, 2015 at 1:18 pm

    Study Science and Astronomy my Friends –
    – don’t be afraid !
    — be Hubble for a Day !
    –you’ll observe the ultra Awesomeness of our Universe, Nature and the veritable actual insignificance of Supersticous Man !

    Billions of Planets, Stars – even Gallaxies over endless Time — and ONE Ghostly, shy White Guy, with a Magic Wand created it ?
    Hmmm – – where was it I heard ?
    “And crawling on the Planets Face – some Insects called the Human Race – Lost in Time – Lost in Space — and Meaning” !
    Respectifully, Robert DeMars

    • Bob Loblah

      December 1, 2015 at 1:33 pm

      02Dec15…..The universe was created when GOD ‘ pharted ‘……

    • Bob Loblalh

      December 9, 2015 at 4:59 pm

      10Dec15…..Now, don’t you try to tell Bob Loblah that Michaelangelo’s belief was a waste of time.
      ,,,and in modern times that Neil Armstrong was just ‘ too far out of touch ‘ to believe in GOD…….Go figure….BobLoblah

  10. Peedee Wyre

    December 9, 2015 at 5:00 am

    The Golden Rule and the spirit of Matthew:25 (without the deity implied) are my ‘Natural/Organic’ alternative to religion. Kudos to Sinatra for being up-front about religion, especially more than 50 years ago. He was also extremely generous, giving away hundreds of millions of dollars “just because.” He was not a perfect man and not necessarily a great singer, but he was (and still is) “Da Man.” R.I.P., Crooner.

    • Bob Loblah

      December 9, 2015 at 4:55 pm

      10Dec15…..Wrong. You are fulla schidt to the eyeballs. While Frank Sinatra did so give to ‘ some ‘ charities and was somewhat generous, he NEVER had hundreds of $$ millions $$ to give. You need to readup some more on ‘ ol Blue Eyes. But it is true that he was ‘ bangin ‘ 2 waitresses at a time on the Strip in Vegas. This got him to be copied in The Godfather. His name preceded him wherever he went and he went so far as to advise Bobby Kennedy that Bobby’s brother John F. Kennedy had to ‘ knock it off ‘ when he was droppin’ his drawers to mafia dons’ women . Of course, Frank got the message via Bobby that JFK wanted nothing else to do with him. This put Frank into a ‘ tizzy ‘ and he hated the Kennedys from that point onwards…..
      ‘ Money For Nothing ‘……………..Dire Straits…
      Go figure…..Bob Loblah

  11. Robert DeMars

    December 9, 2015 at 6:24 pm

    Mr Lobiah – you dont have to believe in a Supreme God to look into the Universe and feel In awe of Nature – to be Spiritual !
    Michaelangelo was paid to paint/ chisel the pretty subjects demanded by the rich and powerful Pope. Whether he believed the Catholic Doctrine or just played along for the Facilities, the Job and the warm companionship of his Handsome Buddies is questionable.
    As to Neal Armstrong he was launched out of NASA in Houston Texas, fer Gods sake! It was 1969 – a time when NO ONE except the courageous, Madelin Murray O’Hare dared question Christianities God based fairy tales. And Madelin, along with her young Son and Daughter were savagely murderded by Knife and buried in barrells, for their 1964, Athiest challenges against forced Religion in our Public Schools. – Killed by Timothy McVei like, God believing Christians !
    Kind of like the the Allah persuading Bombers and Gun firing Religionists we see on TV today and almost every day !

    — Look at the Stars –
    – be one with the Universe
    – there in no God !

  12. anita dorroll

    December 25, 2015 at 9:06 am

    Of course, churches should be tax just like any other organization that has a business and expendses. The business of a church is to spread it doctrim. So, go do it and keep a record of your expenses . If you have anything left at the end of the year, pay taxes on it. But a good church will have spend its money on working with its people and the groups they help: homeless, parentless, ill, helpless, needy, etc. Buy what you need but put a ceiling on salaries and on types of bonus and have a group of church members each year keeping up with a budget proposed by the members and the leaders. NO leader of a church should make millions of dollars. No church should own wealth beyoung a reasonable. It is time to look at fraud and kick out lies and fraud.

    • BobLoblah

      January 12, 2016 at 11:45 am

      13Jan16…..A church is a church is a church. And in the name of Jesus Christ every knee shall bend…….

      • Robert DeMars

        January 12, 2016 at 11:56 am

        Sounds like advocating a U.S. theocracy ! Like Iran ! Wonder what all the WitchDoctors would do if they had to get a legitimate job?

      • BobLoblah

        January 12, 2016 at 6:27 pm

        13Jan16…..Pay their taxes thereby reducing mine. Ps: How much taxes do you pay…..???…..Go figure….

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