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Atheism – The Musical by underground

Every week I like to post quotes I have come across that I find thought provoking or sum up my opinion on something succinctly, and with wit. Instead, for a change, I’m going to occasionally select half a dozen songs that reflect my views on some particular issue. I’m going to start with my favourite band, on a topic of interest to me.

Here is Bad Religion on faith, God and atheism.

Bad Religion, as the name might suggest, are fairly critical of religion in their songs. That is perhaps an understatement! But instead of the mindless anti-religious abuse some bands have popularised, Bad Religion’s objections are considered and reasoned. This may have something to do with the bands front man Greg Graffin having a doctorate in evolutionary biology, but even before he obtained his degree the band has made intelligent philosophical statements in their music. Song writing duties are split between vocalist Graffin and guitarist Brett Gurewitz, and both musicians are equally capable of writing thought provoking intelligent lyrics.

So perhaps in the way the religious people reaffirm their beliefs through song, Bad Religion has written the perfect hymns for non-believers. However, Greg says in the song “No direction”, “no Bad Religion song can make your life complete”. They can make you stop and think though.

I’ve decided to be quite selective and only choose half a dozen Bad Religion songs, although there are of course many more to choose from. I’ve chosen no more than one from any one album, and added my interpretation of what I feel the song conveys. Enjoy.

From 2004’s Empire Strikes Back, “Live again – The Fall of Man” is clever response to those that still use Pascal’s Wager and dedicate their life to faith and dogma, closing their minds to the diversity of thought that exists in the here and now. And as scientific advancements erode the foundations of religion, is it really rational to maintain a belief in something that may not even be true?

“Live Again – The Fall Of Man”

The road is narrow, the horizon wide
And to say what’s waiting on the other side
Is so rewarding and the ultimate prize
But what good is something if you can’t have it until you die?

Desperate, tenacious, clinging like a grain of sand
Watching its foundation wash away (wash away)
Drunk with the assertions they know they can’t defend
Confident that they might…live again


Live again, live again
Would you give it all up to live again?
Live again, live again
Would you give it all up to live again?

Temptation? Revelation? You decide
Torture shows its colours often in disguise
Progress and purpose help us realize
We pass along a brighter faith even though it must be blind

“The Answer” was the song that got me into this band and got me interested in the whole “theism v atheism” debate. From the 1992 album Generator, “The Answer” tells of how many beliefs have been held throughout history only to die out in the light of a new belief, or science. These religions have failed their people and do not hold up to scrutiny.

“The Answer”

Long ago in a dusty village
full of hunger, pain and strife
A man came forth with a vision of truth
and the way to a better life
He was convinced he had the answer
and he compelled people to follow along
But the hunger never vanished
and the man was banished
and the village dried up and died


At a time when wise men peered
through glass tubes toward the sky
The heavens changed in predictable ways
and one man was able to find
That he had thought he found the answer
and he was quick to write his revelation
But as they were scrutinised
in his colleagues eyes
he soon became a mockery


Don’t tell me about the answer
’cause then another one will come along soon
I don’t believe you have the answer
I’ve got ideas too
But if you’ve got enough naïveté
and you’ve got conviction
then the answer is perfect for you


An urban sprawl sits choking on its discharge
overwhelmed by industry
Searching for a modern day saviour from another place
inclined toward charity
Everyone’s begging for an answer
without regard to validity
the searching never ends
it goes on and on for eternity

“Come Join Us” from 1996’s The Gray Race is something of a mock recruitment song for evangelicals, but portraying their true intentions and motivations. The song highlights the fears, insecurities, frailties and ignorance of those that blindly follow a fundamentalist religion.

“Come Join Us”

So you say you gotta know why the world goes ’round
and you can’t find the truth in the things you’ve found
and you’re scared shitless ‘cuz evil abounds
Come and join us

Well I heard you were looking for a place to fit in
full of adherent people with the same objective
a family to cling to and call brethren
Come and join us

All we want to do is change your mind
All you need to do is close your eyes

So come and join us
Come and join us
Come and join us

Don’t you see the trouble that most people are in
and that they just want you for their own advantage
but I swear to you we’re different from all of them
Come and join us
I can tell you are lookin’ for a way to live
where truth is determined by consensus
full of codified arbitrary directives
Come and join us


All we want to have is your small mind
turn it into one of our own kind
You can go through life adrift and alone
desperate, desolate, on your own
but we’re lookin’ for a few more stalwart clones


So come and join us
Come and join us
Come and join us

We’ve got spite and dedication as a vehement brew
the world hates us, well we hate them too
but you’re exempted of course if you
Come and join us
Independent, self-contented, revolutionary
intellectual, brave, strong and scholarly
if you’re not one of them, you’re us already so
Come and join us

“Faith alone”, from 1990’s Against the Grain, tells of how faith has failed society, and that we must proactively take responsibility for our actions and fix up the world’s problems. Be it the environment, conflict or societal problems, sitting around thinking that God will fix things is counter-productive. When also cannot expect scientists to clean up our mess in the future, we must all be held accountable. Often I have confronted theists online who really do believe that everything will be sorted out be God. To me this is indicative of their inability to take any responsibility.


“Faith Alone”

Heard a sermon from a creaky pulpit with no one in the nave
I paid a visit to the synagogue and I left there feeling blamed
No one could tell me what to do, they had not the capacity to answer me

What the world needs now is some answers to our problems
We can’t buy more time ’cause our tender isn’t valid
If your soul needs love you can get consoled by pity
But it looks as though faith alone won’t sustain us no more

Watched the scientists throw up their hands conceding, “progress will resolve it all”
Saw the manufacturers of earth’s debris ignore another green peace call
No one could tell me what to do, no one had the ability to answer me

What the world needs now is some accountability
We can’t buy more time ’cause time won’t accept our money
If your soul needs love you can always have my pity
But it looks as though faith alone won’t sustain us no more…

What the world needs now is some answers to our problems
We can’t buy more time ’cause our tender isn’t valid
What the world needs now is some accountability
If your soul needs love you can get consoled by pity
But faith alone won’t sustain us anymore
faith alone won’t sustain us anymore

Even the most staunch atheist will at times acknowledge the security of faith, but this song counters that with the cognitive dissonance one must suffer in order to have this faith. In “Materialist” from 2002’s Process of Belief, Greg sings of his inability to faith in a God when all the evidence he confronts points to a godless reality. Despite the security that religion can give a believer, the material evidence points to a reality which requires no God to explain its intricacies.

“Materialist”

You’re obsessed and distressed
Cause you can’t make any sense of the ludicrous nonsense
and incipient senescence
that will deem your common sense useless
this aint no recess!

I want to believe in you, but my plan keeps falling through
I know I have to face the harshnes, grin and bear the truth
And I have to walk this mile in my own shoes
(and I’m no fool!)

[Chorus]
I’m materialist
a full-blown realist
(physical theorist)
and I guess I’m full of doubt
so I’m prone to hear you out and refuse
I’m materialist
There ain’t no fear in this
it’s for all to see, so don’t talk of hidden mysteries with me…

Mind over matter, it really don’t matter
If the street’s idle chatter turns your heart strings to tatters
Flatter hopes don’t flatter and soul batter won’t congeal to mend
a life that is shattered into shards
Was it in the cards?

The process of belief is an elixir when you’re weak
I must confess, at times I indulge it on the sneak
but generally my outlook’s not so bleak
(and I’m not meek!)

[Chorus]
I’m materialist
Call me a humanist
(physical theorist)
and I guess I’m full of doubt,
but I’ll gladly have it out with you
I’m materialist
I ain’t no deist
it’s there for all to see, so don’t of hidden mysteries with me

Like Rome under Nero, our future’s one big zero
Recycling the past to meet the immediate needs
And through it all we ramble forth with persevere and climb
Our mountains of regret to sow our seeds

I’m materialist
I’m materialist
I’m materialist
I’m materialist

From 2007’s incredible New Maps of Hell, “New Dark Ages” is a song about, well just that, the new dark ages. When one considers the rise of anti-science lobby groups, particularly in US but elsewhere too, be it global warming deniers, Intelligent Design proponents, or parents who ignore medical experts and opt to heal their sick children with faith, religious fundamentalism poses a threat to liberal secular society. Similar to “Come join us”, “New dark ages” is from the point of view of Christian fundamentalists, a call for people to return to the piety and Christian ways of the dark ages, the times of inquisitions and oppression.

“New Dark Ages”

Yeah can you hear the call in our rambling land susurrations,
That can expand beyond all hope of light and plunge us into unrelenting night

A pall on truth and reason,
It feels like hunting season
So avoid those lines of sight and we’ll set this right

Welcome to the new dark ages
I hope you’re living right
These are the new dark ages
And the world might end tonight

Now come ye children one and all – let’s heed Ezekiel’s call,
And bide until the word is good and ripe and get plucked clean out of sight

The world will be erased our kin will be
Immaculate ejaculate in space
Before the king of king’s love, he’ll snatch us
From above, brothers help me sing it

Welcome to the new dark ages
I hope you’re living right
These are the new dark ages
And the world might end tonight

So how do you sleep
There’s nothing to keep
This is deep

Because we’re animals – with golden rules
Who… who can’t be moved by rational views

Welcome to the new dark ages
I hope you’re living right
Welcome to the new dark ages
And the world might end tonight

So there you go. Great lyrics from a great band. The greatest band, in my humble opinion. I’d love to know what other fans think, do you agree with my selections? Is there another band out there that matches Bad Religion in terms of intelligent critique of religion? Is there a Christian band that you think competently counters Bad Religion in terms of thoughtful consider lyrics? Or are all Christian bands peddlers of the same mindless “I love you Jesus” lyrics?

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