Monday, January 12, 2009

The List: 10 Surprising Atheist Songs


How many of us actually listen and evaluate the lyrics of songs that we love. Pop music has hidden some fascinating thinkers in the veneer of a 3 minute single.

I can think of several instances where I could almost feel the heat from a mental light bulb upon listening to a song whose meaning I had never really thought about before. The humanist inspired Do You Realize? by The Flaming Lips is prime example of this occurrence.

In several other situations, another person had to point out something that I had never noticed before. A good example of this would be my wife pointing out Ben Folds song Not the Same was a tragic tale of losing a friend to Christian conversion.

I thought I'd put together a list of 10 songs whose atheist, humanist, agnostic, or freethinking theme that may have flown under your radar.

10. Death Cab For Cutie - I Will Follow You Into The Dark

DCFC are a brilliantly poppy Beatles inspired rock band. This song shows that maybe obsessing about what comes next may not be the most important thing in the world.

Key Lyrics: The time for sleep is now
It's nothing to cry about
Cause we'll hold each other soon
The blackest of rooms

9. XTC - Dear God

This song may not be surprising per se, but XTC is unfortunately not one of the better known bands in my neck of the woods. The crushing opening and ending verse of Dear god by Jasmine Veillette are extremely powerful.

Key lyrics: But all the people that you made in your image,
See them fighting in the street
'Cause they can't make opinions meet
About God.
Can't believe in you.

8. Roxy Music - More Than This

Bryan Ferry makes waxes about his feelings that this reality is all that we have.

Key Lyrics: Who can say where we're going
No care in the world
Maybe I'm learning
Why the sea on the tide
Has no way of turning

7. Rush - Freewill

All though Rush can be a bit objectivist for my taste, Freewill espouses in the belief that you are your own responsibility.

Key Lyrics: All preordained
A prisoner in chains
A victim of venomous fate
Kicked in the face
You can't pray for a place
In heaven's unearthly estate

6. Peter Gabriel - Not One of Us

Peter Gabriel paints a stark picture of the exclusionary attitudes adopted by many religious people.

Key Lyrics: A foreign body
And a foreign mind
Never welcome
In the land of the blind
You may look like we do
Talk like we do
But you know how it is

5. Ben Folds - Not the Same

Ben Folds paints the heartbreaking picture of losing a friend to Christianity.

Key Lyrics: You see 'em drop like flies from the bright sunny skies
They come knocking at your door with
this look in their eyes
You've got one good trick and you're
hanging on you're hanging on...
To it

4. The Flaming Lips - Do You Realize?

This is one of my favorite songs. Do You Realize? accentuates the precarious position we hold on the Earth and the utter beauty of our lives. Why waste time on worries of damnation and fear when there is so much to discover?

Key Lyrics: And instead of saying all of your goodbyes - let them know
You realize that life goes fast
It's hard to make the good things last
You realize the sun don'-go down
It's just an illusion caused by the world spinning round

3. The Kinks - Big Sky

Big Sky is a fairly scathing statement on God. Ray Davies paints a vivid picture of a deity that doesn't really care.

Key Lyrics: Big Sky looks down on all the people who think they got problems
They get depressed and they hold their
head in their hands and cry.
People lift up their hands and they look up to the Big Sky
But the Big Sky is too big to sympathize

2. George Gershwin - It Ain't Necessarily So

George Gershwin's Opera Porgy and Bess gives us what is possibly the best song on skepticism ever.

Key Lyrics: To get into Hebbben
Don't snap fo' a sebben -
Live clean! Don'
have no fault!
Oh, I takes dat gospel
Whenever it's pos'ple -
But wid a grain of salt!

1. John Lennon - Imagine

john Lennon's Imagine is probably one of the best known songs in the world, but I wonder how many people bother to actually listen to the lyrics. Imagine is a compassionate plea for love and peace to reign of religion dogma.

Key Lyrics: Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace...

In closing I thought I'd give religion a shot at rebuttal:

Sonseed - Jesus is a Friend of Mine


  1. Don't forget Frank Zappa's "Dumb All Over". (Not that there was anything subtle about the viewpoint there, though. ;) ) I love this song.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. How about ELP's "I Believe in Father Christmas", the first atheist Christmas song (according to its author Pete Sinfield)?

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.


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