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This article is from Issue 53: Sept/Oct 2011

Death Cab for Cutie

On growing up, lightening up and logging off.

Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard isn’t shy. His wry, class-clown persona onstage is by no means a put-on. One on one, he still exudes that same charisma—except that he’s also the boy next door who just happened to have his nose in a book and sky-high ambition. Even when approached with questions of faith—which Gibbard admits he doesn’t have all the answers to—his confidence and charm remain unshaken. “[Faith’s] something I always find myself meditating on,” he admits. “I don’t want to falsely believe in something solely so I can jump to the front of the line for whatever this awesome place is [where] we go aft er we die. I kind of feel like if there was a God, [He] would appreciate the fact that I just don’t know. Th e vastness of that idea is so beyond my comprehension that I feel like if there was a God, then that God would accept me saying I’m not able to believe because it’s so outside of my ability to understand it. I understand that’s where faith comes into play.”

A lapsed Catholic, Gibbard suggests his doubts stem from a tradition-seeped, works-based salvation upbringing. “It’s not like I can decide one day to rid myself of the emotional shackles of that religion,” he says, voice free from the bitterness one would usually associate with such an incriminating statement. “In Catholicism, it’s so drilled into you that your actions will determine if you go to a place where you burn for eternity, or you will go to the most wonderful place in the world. And of course in Catholicism there’s the notion of purgatory, which is the absence of God—it’s just like a waiting room, basically. There’s no fun, but there’s no fire either.”

While Gibbard is content to question, and admits the search is still ongoing, he doubts his answers will be handed to him by organized religion. “Faith in Catholicism is based so much in fear that I can’t live with faith, if faith is fear,” he says, simply.

Instead, Gibbard chooses to lay his faith in the goodness of humanity, or rather the idea of a built-in moral com-pass. “I believe people for the most part have a built-in sense of right and wrong,” he says. “Some of that comes from being brought up Catholic, but I think even more so, as I’ve become an adult, you just kind of know when you’re doing some-thing wrong. It’s very rare when you find yourself in a situation and either a) you don’t realize what you’re doing is wrong, or b) upon reflection you can’t come to that same conclusion.”