The Importance of Religious Music

Jul 4, 2023

The connection between music and religion is easily found across a wide range of faiths, including Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam. For as long as there have been religious ceremonies and worship, there has always been religious music to accompany it. And we have found evidence of this tradition across cultures and around the world.

Each religious tradition has its own associated musical traditions. For example, bronze instruments are commonly found in Hindu meditative music, while Christian music, on the other hand, employs a wide range of musical elements, including but not limited to: Gregorian chants, Russian Orthodox choir, rock and roll, pop, classical, and more. What’s more there can even be divergent musical traditions within the same religion, separated only by geography.

Yet, regardless of this incredible diversity, religious music has long been an integral aspect of worship and ceremony. So, what is it that makes music so important to religion? What purpose does it serve? Let’s explore.

Religious Music Helps Express Emotion

This may seem obvious at first, as music is a great medium for self-expression no matter the venue. However, when it comes to religious music, this may go a bit further. Religious music helps to create a space for people to connect with their deepest thoughts and beliefs in a way that words simply cannot match. One example of this comes from the people of Zimbabwe. There, they make music to give thanks to their god for providing a successful harvest or hunting season.

This effect can be deepened even further with the effects of the words or lyrics that accompany the music.

Furthermore, the very outpouring of emotion religious music facilitates can create something of an emotional feedback loop, which brings us to our next point.

Religious Music Helps Elicit Emotion

A somewhat recent study suggested that some religious music, like gospel for example, conveys a “message of hope and optimism.” Researchers say that the more often a person listens to religious music of this sort, the less anxious they tend to feel about death. What’s more, they also tend to be more satisfied with their lives and have a strong sense of self-esteem.

Further evidence of this effect was found by another study, which found that religious music could trigger positive emotions for the religious experience as a whole. However, this more recent study could not determine if this effect was caused by the neuropsychology of the brain, a cultural trigger, or some combination of both.

Other researchers have suggested that religious music could act as a cue associated with moral standards. These researchers say music in religion develops specific meanings and creates cues that influence the behaviours of worshipers; it guides them through their faith’s moral code.

Yet another study, focusing on the perspective of early childhood education, found that Muslim children that learn and sing Islamic songs develop a sense of moral and religious values. These songs are rich in moral messaging, and researchers suggest learning them increases children’s active participation in the faith.

Religious Music Unifies

According to Nash (2018), another role of music in religion is to “encourage participation and build community.” Solidarity and behaviours within a group are often self-evident, especially when that group is worshiping together. If you’ve ever attended a religious ceremony, you’ve seen this; no matter the faith, when religious music is performed, people engage with it, swaying, dancing, and singing. It also seems this engagement grows over time; even those who are less inclined to move with the music eventually do, until the entire congregation is synchronized and unified. Music is the key to creating this solidarity, reaching across age, gender, and more.

Today, people of all manner of cultural backgrounds who share the same religious beliefs come together to worship. Religious music is there to help bridge any cultural divides and foster a feeling of connectedness and belonging.

Closing Thoughts

Music has been a critical part of religion since the beginning. Over the centuries it has changed; gotten more accessible in some places, and more complicated in others, but always present and always positive.

The reaction we experience when listening to music with other people is unmatched. Sharing an emotion with another when you break into goosebumps as you listen can be a life-changing experience. Music has united people throughout history, defining groups, passing beliefs, and sharing emotions. Even as our world gets smaller as we make connections with people through technology, music will continue to play its role. A shared interest in music has always brought us closer, and always will.

If you’re looking for a friendly place to start or even continue your musical journey, look no further than The Music Studio! Check out all our programs, and sign up today.