As a popular music historian (of a sort), I am constantly banging head first into hit songs about people's imaginary friends. And, as such, I mourn for the nation and the world.

So ...

Question 1). Which are your most hated god-centric popular songs? (Mine are, in order, "God Bless The U.S.A." (Lee Greenwood), "Jesus Take The Wheel" (Carrie Underwood) and "Jesus Walks" (Kanye West).

Question 2). Do you have any god-centric popular songs that you rather like, despite their theme? (I'll only admit to "Spirit In The Sky" by Norman Greenbaum, though there are one or two others.)

Question 3). This one is going to be a stumper, I fear. Aside from "Imagine" by John Lennon, is there/are there another/other popular song(s) which are expressly atheistic/humanistic and specifically don't call upon an invisible friend? (I say "popular," in that there are probably many by a variety of indie artists, but those don't necessarily swim in the mainstream where everyone would have heard it on the radio.)

There are a million reasons why there wouldn't be -- not the least of which it's hard to sing about a negative of something (belief), but maybe I'm overlooking something.

Tags: Atheism, Culture, Music, Pop

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Answer 1) Besides the ones you mentioned, I'm gonna also say, God Bless America. while not popular in the chart sense, it's still heard in far too many places. Oh and also, I never liked "You Light Up My Life" which was popular in the 70s in which she made sure everyone knew that it was about God. I am also not a Creed fan. They come off as preachy to me. I also am a big Metal fan but really don't like Stryper or Petra both thematically and musically.

Answer 2) I like a lot of metal like Manowar and while, yes, I understand they are talking about "Other" Gods, I still have heard the sarcastic question, "How you can like this song, if you don't believe in any Gods?" or "So, you believe in that but not God God?". I mean, I don't believe in the force, but I can still enjoy Star Wars.

I also like the song, Hallelujah written by Leonard Cohen. Now, I put this song as a song I like that is god-centric because that is the general consensus of this song. Strangely though, I find this song a bit Atheistic in theme... Something in it's tone. One verse goes as follows:

Maybe there's a god above
but all I've ever learned from love
was to shoot somebody who outdrew ya.

It's not a cry that you hear at night
it's not someone whose seen the light
it's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah.

...anyway, it's a beautiful piece of music when it's performed well.

While lookkng up a link for Answer 3, I becam an instant fan of this parody.

Answer 3) "What If God Was One Of Us" Anything that gets them asking questions is a good thing. "Dear God" by XTC (i linked to a Sarah McLachlan version which is a good updated version. "I Will Follow You Into The Dark" is also very good.
This is perhaps the best "peace" song of all time. Totally non-aggressive and, quite frankly, hard to argue against. Any unkind word toward the song makes the critic look foolish, cynical or bigoted. Experience has shown me people putting down this song's message looking like fools after being asked about their value system. I don't rub it in, however. I want them to see what they're actually saying and how they try to justify their bigotry.
I gotta second you on "God Bless the U.S.A." Annoying my-country-right-or-wrong idiocy and overly simplistic religion. Its like he wrote the song to piss me off.
Also, even though it is about God, I really love "Big Rock Candy Mountain".
Unfortunately its hard for me to think of any truly popular songs, but I'll give it a try, though I might have to stretch the description of popular:
"The Preacher and The Slave" a song written by labor activist Joe Hill, was very popular a long time ago, not to mention being really funny and entertaining (look up the version by Eric Greer for a modern update)
I can't remember the name, but Gogol Bordello (pretty popular) have a song on their album "Super Taranta" that is very anti-religious
The band Propaghandi is great for religion free music, and some top-shelf punk, smae for Bad Religion (obviously)
The Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young song "Cathedral"
That's all I got for now.
Good luck searching.
I listen to a LOT of straight out gospel music -- not the happy clappy megachurch variety but the old time stuff from which country, blues, soul and eventually rock comes. Sister Rosetta Tharpe, say, just as one example. A lot of country gospel and blues music with similar themes. I'm a big Dylan fan and although his gospel stuff is rather sterile on record, the live concerts from that time are brilliant. (I admit to skipping over the apocalyptic sermons in between the songs, but the music itself rocks.) I have no probs with any of it; apart from the absolutely compelling nature of the music I take the humanistic stance that these are all just particular cultural expressions of desires and problems we all have. it is not alien to me. A lot of this older music is very matter of fact about death and realistic about suffering, it's very human to me and I can relate to it, even as a "militant" atheist.

I was a Christian in my teens and I recall being on a summer camp and playing some Johnny Cash gospel songs -- I think his version of "Why Me, Lord" by Kris Kristofferson -- and the Bible Society evangelist types freaked out and just did not get it at all. I have very fond memories of blowing their minds like that. It was quickly taken off and replaced with some Christian contemporary worship blah. Ha.

I do seek out more explicitly humanist/atheist music -- Randy Newman is one of my heroes -- but when I'm listening to music I prefer bad philosophy in good music than vice versa.

All that said, there are millions of songs in my prefered genres about jeebus and sky daddy I hate. God Bless the USA and lots of maudlin nonsense about angels. Eh, there's always good music to put on instead so I tune it out.

I actually dislike "Imagine", I think its pretty trite and not very profound at all.
While I disagree about "Imagine", but the country/gospel/early rock struck a chord.
Even though I've been atheist for a good while now, and don't think I'm ever going to heaven, Appalachian and Southern gospel and folk always get me, like "I'll Fly Away", or "Down In the Valley" (Everyone else in the world knows this as the song from "Oh brother, where Art Thou", it was changed to "Down In the River")
Imagin speaks to me. There are many people who would like that type of world to strive for. It isn't just about no religion, it is about no suffering and finding out how good the world can be without leaders.
I have no problem with the general sentiments, i just don't think its a very good song.
1) I absolutely hate "Jesus Take the Wheel". Also "Unanswered Prayers" by Garth Brooks. I generally dislike most country songs (especially anything by Toby Keith, Kenny Chesney, or Alan Jackson) to begin with, but those songs are particularly annoying.

2) There are actually quite a few god-centered songs I like. Here are some I thought of off the top of my head:

"Spirit In The Sky" by Norman Greenbaum
"Let It Be" by the Beatles
"She Talks To Angels" by the Black Crowes
"In My Time of Dying" by Led Zeppelin
"Jesus Is Just Alright" by the Doobie Brothers
"Tears In Heaven" by Eric Clapton
"My Sweet Lord" by George Harrison
"Send Me An Angel" by The Scorpions
"Say Hello To Heaven" by Temple of the Dog

These songs I either like strictly because of the music (such as the guitar work in "Spirit In the Sky") or I just ignore the religious parts of the song if I can re-interpret it to have a more secular meaning.
3) I'd add to the list Van Halen's "Best of Both Worlds", which features the line "you don't have to die and go to Heaven or hang around to be born again; just tune in to what this place has got to offer because we may never be here again".
I am surprised nobody has mentioned Orgasmatron by Motorhead, Here is the first Verse :

I am the one, Orgasmatron, the outstretched grasping hand
My image is of agony, my servants rape the land
Obsequious and arrogant, clandestine and vain
Two thousand years of misery, of torture in my name
Hypocrisy made paramount, paranoia the law
My name is called religion, sadistic, sacred whore.
question 1) God Bless The USA grates on me big time, among others.

question 2) Roots With Culture by Carlos Jones and the P L U S band (popular in Reggae), and yes I sing along with Norman's Spirit in the Sky, and My Sweet Lord and Let it Be.

question 3) While Imagine is certainly my favorite here, I would say STAND by Sly and The Family Stone (yeah it was very popular back in the day) is a call to stand up but by calling on our humanity. Then there is Freakwater, not so popular, but very atheistic in some lyrics: along with Jill Sobule, particularly her song "Soldiers of Christ"

I've given lyrics here:

STAND lyrics:
Stand
In the end you'll still be you
One that's done all the things you set out to do
Stand
There's a cross for you to bear
Things to go through if you're going anywhere
Stand
For the things you know are right
It's the truth that the truth makes them so uptight
Stand
All the things you want are real
You have you to complete and there is no deal
Stand. stand, stand
Stand. stand, stand
Stand
You've been sitting much too long
There's a permanent crease in your right and wrong
Stand
There's a midget standing tall
And the giant beside him about to fall
Stand. stand, stand
Stand. stand, stand
Stand
They will try to make you crawl
And they know what you're saying makes sense and all
Stand
Don't you know that you are free
Well at least in your mind if you want to be

Everybody
Stand, stand, stand

FREAKWATER samples not previously mentioned by others in this thread:
Heaven(excerpt)
"Heaven is for the weak at heart
and those who never were as smart
as me
but I would trade all I belive
keep no trick card up my sleeve
just to know the angels hold you in their arms tonight."

Blood and Fire(excerpt)
"Have a beer for the kid who died
See his mother welling up with pride
Ditch the car and feel the blast
Burning higher than the last
Hair as red as blood and fire
Go tell your god that he's a liar"

Jill Sobule's
Soldiers of Christ

Our lord loves the family, our lord loves the saved
Our lord love the unborn babies and the NRA
Our lord~hates the liberals, the faggots and their friends
We're soldiers of Christ and we're here to defend

The way it used to be
The way it ought to be
The way it's going to be again

In the days of Cain and Abel
In the days of crusades
In the days of inquisitions
They made the damned behave
Before emancipation
Before Roe Vs. Wade
Before they taught little children
That they evolved from apes

The way it used to be
The way it ought to be
The way it's going to be again
And when we're in heaven you'll be sorry then

Our lord loves the sinner as long as he don't sin
He knows the thoughts you're thinking
He knows with whom you've been
And out lord loves this country, he's with you at the polls
He knows the lever that you pull
He's keeping track of souls

The way it used to be The way it ought to be The way it's
going to be again And when we're in heaven you'll be sorry
When we're in heaven you'll be sorry When we're in heaven
you'll be sorry then

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