Björn Ulvaeus: “I imagine a universe that does not care the slightest bit about me”
Last year Björn wrote an article called ‘Även ateister kan förundras’ (Even atheists can marvel) for Swedish magazine Sans.
In the article, he drew on his beliefs as a Humanist, as a music listener and as a person who has experienced what it means to love, to argue that beauty and wonder are not solely the preserve of the religious-minded.
Just published in Sweden is a brand new Sans Magazine article in which Björn reflects on his recent experiences of becoming reacquainted with Kristina från Duvemåla and how, despite the musical having a deeply religious central character, it has only helped reaffirm his status as a ‘freethinker’.
Read my translation of the article below:
Björn Ulvaeus: Thanks to the Svenska Teatern in Helsinki, I have had the opportunity to become familiar again with the musical Kristina från Duvemåla. It premiered at the end of February and being on set was, like last time in the 1990s, entirely fantastic and stimulating.
Once again I was struck how tenderly the author Vilhelm Moberg depicted the profound believer Kristina. Sympathy with the lonely frontier wives out there in the wilderness is self-evident for him, and I felt the same thing when I wrote the lyrics.
It got me thinking about why some people hold close to a dear religious belief, while for others it is impossible.
Vilhelm Moberg places Kristina alone under a starry sky in her singular heart-rending moment of doubt. For the first time in her life, she is not sure whether God really exists. A number of crucial events have meant that she has reached this pivotal moment. In the musical we have her singing:
Du måste finnas, du måste
– You must be there, you must
Hur kan du då överge mig
– How can you abandon me?
Jag vore ingenstans…
– I would be nowhere…
Jag vore ingenting om du inte fanns
– I would be nothing if you did not exist
Kristina stares out into the infinite, icy abyss and feels that despite everything, God is out there. He must be out there because she needs him so much.
I believe that this applies to billions of people in the world; because the need is so great, there must be an answer to it as if the needs is itself based on the theory of supply and demand but on ideological grounds.
“The human need for consolation is insatiable,” wrote Stig Dagerman, and therefore he could never become a happy person, because ” I have no belief and because of that I can never be a happy man. Because happy men should never fear that their lives drift meaninglessly toward the certainty of death.”
Is it the case that evolution has seen to it that some of us have brains that are predisposed to accept religious impulses without questioning them?
Hopefully, neuroscientific brain mapping will eventually provide answers to what religion is.
While others, like me, have an icy-cold scepticism, a part of me that like a cobra strikes down on those impulses and begs the inevitable question: “Is it actually right to think like this? Yeah, I know it would be nice if it were true, but… ”
As everyone knows, the brain is able to put us into a state of dreaming and so one could imagine that religious revelations, of the type that Mohammed and Paul are said to have had, is just the brain playing tricks on us. Hopefully, neuroscientific brain mapping will eventually provide answers to what religion is, and on to whether God exists or not.
If it is the case that there are people who deeply and from their very core, honestly and without any doubt, feel, know, that there is a God and that he cares about them, then it follows that those people must be happier than others.
They are to be congratulated as long as they do not allow decisions made as a result of their convictions impact others.
Kristina gets her unyielding faith back, convinced that she and Karl Oskar are destined to meet again on the other side:
I natt, ska en stjärna tändas, den ska skina klar
– Tonight, there will be a new star, it shall shine so bright
Den lyser dej väg, du och jag, vi mötas åter
– It lights up your way, you and I, we will meet in the ever after
Beskyddet av en ängel som står vakt
– Protection from an angel on his guard
Det vet du att jag har
– You know that I will have that
Jag vill att du ska minnas vad jag sagt
– I implore that you shall recall what I said…
Jag är i gott bevar
– I am in good keeping
I find myself also staring into the boundless, icy abyss and imagine a universe that does not care the slightest bit about me.
- Fritankesmedja – Du måste finnas av Björn Ulvaeus
- Björn Ulvaeus – Even atheists can marvel
- Björn Ulvaeus – Artist plus atheist