In a recent post, conservative blogger/radio personality Todd Starnes singled out Aiden's video for “Hysteria,” claiming that it “celebrates the burning of churches and synagogues” as well as citing other lyrics and imagery in the band's work as offensive. The reason for the uproar is the band's upcoming appearance at the Rock Beyond Belief festival at Fort Bragg, North Carolina on March 31, a secular event organized by Justin Griffith as an alternative to the Christian-based Rock The Fort festival, also at Fort Bragg. Here's an excerpt of RBB's description/mission statement, straight from their about page:
“We are not interested in just being a counter-event to the offensive [emphasis theirs] Rock the Fort concert. We are also not interested in putting on an anti-christian, anti-religious, or anti-anything event. Rock Beyond Belief is A Day of Fun and Entertainment for the Rest of Us.”
Griffith defended both the event and Aiden's participation to Starnes, saying “We view all soldiers as already spiritually complete. Whatever their current religious preference has no bearing on how fit they are as a soldier or anything related to military business … You can buy their [Aiden's] albums in Wal-Mart, a Christian-friendly store. If you have issues with bands that sometimes have swear words, or naughty words, or shocking imagery, that’s a part of the First Amendment.”
Although Griffith confirmed to Starnes that the band wouldn't be performing “Hysteria” as part of their set at Rock Beyond Belief, the RBB website is using the song's video (below) as something of a promotional tool, referring to it as an “atheist anthem.” Aiden's inclusion in RBB along with the rest of the entertainment will be reviewed for decency by military officials prior to the event; interestingly, last year's Rock Beyond Belief was canceled due to, according to Griffith, a last-minute 100% reduction in funding.
Altpress.com has approached Aiden for comment and will update this post once we receive a statement. In the meantime, let us know where you stand in the comments.
UPDATE 4:30 ET: Wil Francis of Aiden offered this exclusive statement to Altpress.com:
“Let me point out that these people count on the ignorance of their listeners/readers. “These people” meaning the conservative bloggers, right wing zealots and fox news talking heads. The video in question (Hysteria) features stock footage of, yes, churches burning, among other shattering events of chaos. This is not in promotion of that sort of destruction. We used it to highlight the Hysteria I've witnessed from religious fundamentalists and political extremists around the globe. These people are completely missing the point of the song. If they took the time to actually listen to the words and the inflection in which they are sung, they would notice the sneering sarcasm I am using. But alas, these people can't even get past the fact that I am dressed up like a silly priest in a graveyard, or the bloody crosses the girl in the gas mask is holding. Those railing against Aiden are confident that their audience will not watch the video and judge for themselves.
It's very hard to “Promote Atheism” as they say. The very definition of atheism is the absence of belief in god or gods. The key word being “Absence”. What I hope to accomplish with writing on this subject and creating music in this fashion is to encourage freethinking and to end the nonsense I see on a daily basis. In this day and age you can ridicule someones politics, you denigrate someones choice in music, but the moment you step on someones beliefs, people cry foul. I don't see the difference. Faith is what people are expected to adopt in the absence of answers to life's big questions. Faith should not be viewed as a virtue, it should be viewed as a cop out. We need to keep questioning and keep thinking, otherwise we will never solve the worlds problems.
I will always speak out in opposition to radical believers who are tearing fabric of our global community to shreds. Count on it.”