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The Chapel, The Temple, The Mosque

August 4, 2023
- Aditya Rajput

Where do snails go during the day? They’re probably somewhere playing video games

The Chapel is a 2022 song by Madilyn Mei, with her signature combo of whimsical melodies paired with subtly melancholy lyrics. And truly, the cover art looks like something from a classic children’s book about creatures in the forest going on an adventure to learn a lesson about friendship.

The Chapel cover art

Now, I will not attempt this review in a clinical manner, because I am not a detached observer trying to meet a deadline. I am writing because this song changed me…

…and also because I tried to get an AI to write this article, but the AI does not have religious trauma, so it sucked at writing this.1

I think many of us in the Age of Algorithms can relate to happening upon a life-changing piece of media by pure chance. For some media I’ve read/heard/watched, they’ve changed me in the way a number changes upon multiplication by one: a process has happened to me, and while I can’t show you what’s changed, something has. I am not the same number.

For other media, like The Chapel, it’s more explicit: I have gotten better words to tell my story. Because despite all the books I’ve read, until very recently, the only way I know to express my fears and trauma has been to force the same trauma onto characters in grimdark YA fanfics.

Leading me along, The children sing a song.
And I’d like to turn around, But I know I’m not that strong.

Back in the Long Ago, I was a choir boy. Well, I was the nearest equivalent of a choir boy in my family’s hybrid Hindu-Islamic tradition. I memorized the hymns and prayers and chants. I learned what they meant and compared the theologies of different sects that some of my extended family were part of. I was really into religious world history and traditions and idols and the absence of idols.2

I’d like to say I was drawn in by poignant songs and essays that talked about how the writers’ God was there for them when they had nothing and nobody. I’d like to say I chose to be hyper-fixated on this stuff.

Anyway, then I got into two car accidents, losing months of my life, and my mom said it was because I didn’t pray hard enough.

They warn of snakes in search of prey.
The stories scare me so I stay, At the chapel where the mantis pray.
And every day, They lead me along.

After the two accidents and my subsequent diagnosis of being monstrous, my dad and I spent that summer doing a whole bunch of wacko tasks to get rid of whatever was making me monstrous. Now that isn’t quite enough to call it religious trauma. I didn’t know it at the time, but there was worse coming.

My cause of devotion gradually shifted from interest to fear. Which was good enough for mi familia. We carried on like that for some time: me dedicating ~30% of my brain space and processing power to retaining info about religious things they expected me to do, them carefully monitoring my behaviour to ensure that my spirits were alright.

I’m missing a house, That I’ve never called home.
I’m missing a time that I’ve nevеr known.
I remember a tree, had a wholе leaf of my own.

Knowledge is lonely.

Taking the red pill makes it so you have a permanent background level of anxiety/fear/despair no matter what you’re doing.3 Or maybe I’m just a general overthinker. But at the very least, people who believe in God(s) go to sleep every night feeling safe: thinking that things will be made right in the end; that Justice exists.

In the small hours of the night, looking out into a skyline of neon and glass and steel, I can’t help but despair. There’s no one to help me now.

I miss the community, I miss belonging. Maybe it’s just the rose-tinted glasses of retrospection, maybe it’s the evolutionary desire to have a tribe.

Now, it remains a dream,
A distant memory that itches my brain

As someone who has experienced growth post-religion, and even accepted that he is a lil’ fucked in the head, I thought I was over this shit. I had a method of dealing with what my family said. Sticks and stone and whatnot. But Chekov wasn’t done with me yet!

People who know me will know that my family had an honest-to-God exorcism performed on me. I was told eight days before summer break started; it was the first task after I landed. I won’t lie, this cut me off at the knee, brought down all defences and decimated any pretences of indifference. As utterly fascinating it was to experience 48 hours of fusion Hindu-Christian rituals, it felt like I’d regressed to eleven-year-old me, drowning in my parents’ immense and unshakable faith, while I had none of my own.

And I’d like to run away, But to leave would be a sin

According to Madilyn Mei, the target audience for this song is ‘entomologists with religious trauma’. And while I only like biology in the way that I just want to know how creatures work and how to stop them working, I thank her for making this song.

Oh, I said this was a review, wasn’t it? Here you go, a sincere review of The Chapel, by me, a dumbass: ouughgh the melodies! there are so MANY of them!!!! and the lyrics,,,,,,,,,, they are made of words.. impeccable.4


  1. Yeah I know it’s an LLM. Yeah I know that what it’s doing is just choosing which word goes next. My best guess for why it sucked is because its dataset didn’t contain that much religious trauma because these models are designed to generate advertiser-friendly/sanitized content. No I’m not naming the model.
  2. I was never really that into Judaism or Christianity (relatively speaking). But I did read the Old Testament and a paraphrased version of the New Testament. Pro Tip: If you’re looking to get into Star Wars, skip “Episode 1: The Phantom Menace”. If you’re looking to read the Bible, skip “Genesis”. Apparently, the first ones are the most boring.
  3. I’ve experienced this with several things in my life: religion, patriotism, mental health, GSRM, class, etc. With the world as systematically fucked as it is, how can I accept any speck of happiness that is thrown my way?!
  4. Adapted from this post by Tumblr user @swordsman