Exactly What It Says on the Tin
"The curse against God is Exercise I in the primer of minor poetry."
—G. K. Chesterton
, about the first subtrope.
, this is a song that attacks religion or religious figures. There are various subtropes, though they often overlap:
1. The God Is Evil
/Rage Against the Heavens
song consists of attacks on a deity that is
actually believed in (though not necessarily by the singer) and objected to. A subset of these are angry versions of Have You Seen My God?
, or demands that the deity explain what they think they're playing at, and/or whether they're really what they say they are. Parodies that are a Take That
at a deity itself also land here. As do pretty much all musical examples of God Is Flawed
. "You don't exist!" as a Take That
and "if there is
a God, s/he's a bastard" themes also fall under this heading.
2. The Author Filibuster Religion Is Wrong
/Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions
rant song is about calling out religion as a pernicious influence, or based on false beliefs, or both. Like the first, this one need not imply atheism, though it often does, and is compatible with Jesus Was Way Cool
type sentiments towards particular deities/religious figures, while attacking Knights Templar
, the Church Militant
, the Path of Inspiration
, what its singers perceive
as a Religion of Evil
, or similar things. This one may also come in calmer versions. Parodies that are a Take That
at a religion as a whole or at its followers usually land here.
3. The Calling Out The Leaders rant song includes songs about losing faith in prophets/gurus/religious leaders and/or specific Take Thats
at a specific leader of a Path of Inspiration
or perceived Con Man
or Scam Religion
or Knight Templar
or Moral Guardian
, whether or not this also extends to losing faith in the relevant deity/deities or religion. Parodies that are a Take That
at a leader or a specific subgroup within a religion (e.g. a Con Man
or a group of Moral Guardians
) are here, no matter how much followers of said religion might insist they are Type 1.
These are commonly - but not always! - Goth, Heavy Metal
or Punk songs.
The opposite, of course, is Christian Rock
, although it certainly isn't impossible for a Christian band to pull out the third kind, or the second if it's aimed at another religion than their own.
- Pretty much any Black Metal band will have at least ONE song of this nature in its discography.
- Leonard Bernstein's Mass has a few Type 1 examples, the angriest being "Non Credo" and "Dona Nobis Pacem", though even they don't imply God Is Evil.
- Virtually any song from Fireaxe's album Food For The Gods. Take your pick, there are about 50 of them.
- Loudness's "Racing The Wind" is an angry type 1. Arguably their 2010 song "King of Pain" is as well, because it has two possible interpretations - being a Take That at a Corrupt Corporate Executive or President Evil or some such, or being a Take That at, if not God, at a popular interpretation of "God".
- NOFX's Idiots Are Taking Over is clearly a Type 1. It derides America in general, but specifically cites the nation's decline being due to "faith...being fancied over reason," resulting in "God-fearing pregnant nationalists" propagating "how-to-get-ahead religions."
- Tori Amos: "God." ("God, sometimes you don't come through/do you need a woman to look after you?")
- XTC's "Dear God," a mix of 1 and 2 that basically calls God out on his numerous failures, says the Bible was written by "us crazy humans" and ends up by saying "I can't/won't believe in you."
- Zilch's "Easy Jesus" is a Type 1, 2, and 3. (yes, it manages to be in all of these categories.)
- A Perfect Circle's "Judith."
- "Blasphemous Rumors" by Depeche Mode.
- "Personal Jesus" may be a type 1, a type 2, or a type 3, depending on the interpretation. Word of God (yeah, we know) apparently favors type 2. Johnny Cash's version seems closer to a subversion of type 1, or possibly 3, and either way makes it sound like a straight(ish) God Is Love Song rather than a Take That at one. It also manages to sound like it's an original the Depeche Mode is the cover of, partly due to the piano riff. Marilyn Manson's cover takes the Depeche Mode version and adds 100% more bitterness.
- "Personal Jesus" may not be a Religion Rant Song at all, more like a Blasphemous Boast song.
- Simple phone sex is another, somewhat, popular interperitation of "Personal Jesus". Which might make it a type II, as it would, arguably, equate religiosity to an act deemed desperate, or perverse.
- Marilyn Manson's album Holy Wood, or at least, almost all of it. Also, the first song of his he liked, and the first one on his first album (not counting him reciting the Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory boat poem from hell), "Cake And Sodomy", which he wrote after seeing cable TV for the first time, watching a man masturbate and have a 1-800 number to call and give money, and a TV preacher preach and have a 1-800 number to call and give money. Others pop up in other albums.
- "Heresy" by Nine Inch Nails is definitely this with lyrics like "His perfect kingdom of killing, suffering, and pain/Demands devotion, atrocities done in his name" and a rousing chorus of "Your God is dead, and no one cares." Whether the song represents Trent Reznor's actual feelings or those of the album's "main character" is debatable, but the song's internal meaning is clear.
- Word of God is that it was written in reaction to conservative Christians who had claimed that AIDS is divine punishment for promiscuity and homosexuality.
- "Ruiner", which appears later on in the same album is essentially a follow-up to Heresy, except due to it's position later on in the Concept Album, is actually addressed to God itself. That said, it isn't as obvious that this is a Religion Rant Song unless you've read the lyrics to Heresy.
- "Terrible Lie" is a less abstract, more personal variant, although without reading the lyrics booklet it can be hard to tell that each verse actually begins with a distorted voice yelling "Hey God!" (mostly because it's superimposed with the loud guitar stabs).
- The Sugarcubes' "Deus" probably counts, although by the time the supposedly non-existent deity has apparently got into the bath with Einar, your guess is as good as anyone's. And no, Björk's parts of the song do not help clear up matters.
- "Prayer" by Disturbed was most heavily inspired by 9/11 and the problems in the world at the time of its writing, carrying themes of the tribulation and hardship piling up like some sadistic test. The overall idea is "It's gotten so bad that I've stopped caring, so go ahead and kill me, I dare you! You'll never sway me from my defiance of you, you petty bastard."
- The gruesome parody of the 23rd Psalm in Pink Floyd's "Sheep".
- The lyrics are ambiguously just anti-authoritarianism than being anti-religion specifically.
- "Dreadnaught" by Machinae Supremacy's lyrics boil down to "God Is Evil and He wants your nation to Take Over the World."
- "Remnant (March of the Undead, pt IV)" criticizes the idea that God is benevolent despite doing nothing to stop evil.
- Possibly the least angry type 1: Matthew Sweet's "Divine Intervention" pulls a Holding Out for a Hero in the chorus, questions God's benevolence ("I look around/And all I see is destruction"), and basically sums up its entire message with "I cannot understand my God/I don't know why it gets to me".
- If any Rush song comes closest to being Type I, it would be Faithless. Either that, or Sweet Miracle. YMMV.
- Alice in Chains' "God Am".
- Andrew Jackson Jihad's "Rejoice."
- "God Help Me" by Emilie Autumn is about losing faith in God.
- YMMV on that, though, as the lyrics suggest more of a lost faith in the world around the singer or a lost faith in one person in particular.
- "Tomorrow Wendy" by Andy Prieboy (and covered by Concrete Blonde) is about a woman who's dying of AIDS, and is a furious rant against God's inability to do anything to help (sample lyrics: "I told the priest/Don't count on any second coming/God got his ass kicked/The first time he came down here slumming"). One of the saddest, angriest songs ever written.
- "God's Song (That's Why I Love Mankind)" by Randy Newman. Maybe. The song depicts a deity that is utterly unsympathetic to mankind's suffering due to the atrocities we visit upon one another, and does nothing to help. However, as with any Newman song it is difficult to tell whether he is being facetious. (It's also worth noting that another song on the album, "Old Man," explicitly disavows the idea of God and an afterlife, but it does not qualify as a Religion Rant Song).
- "Godsaid" by Todd Rundgren. "Beloved Infidel" might also qualify.
- "Adonai" by Hurt goes from Have You Seen My God? to outright calling God out.
I call it real tough love / Unless you love to pick your bodies up
- Bastion's soundtrack has the bonus song "The Pantheon (ain't gonna catch you)". Sung by the narrator, Rucks, about how the gods aren't going to help you. The jury's out on whether he's right, but invoking the gods in the game does cause various negative effects...
Gods ain't gonna help you, son / You'll be sorry for what you've done / Them gods gonna hurt you, son / When you play with a loaded gun.
They ain't gonna catch ya / When ya fall / You'll be pleadin' / While you're bleedin'
- "Where's God" by the Insane Clown Posse may have things that can qualify for each type, this song fits more along this type. It's about how even though they may still believe in God, they wonder why God allows horrible things to occur to innocent people and how evil people can get away with those things.
- "The Sound of Crying" by Prefab Sprout suggests that God is somewhat neglecting his duties. Prefab Sprout (and more specifically songwriter Paddy McAloon) touch on religious themes quite often, but usually avert this trope (sometimes quite strongly), so this particular song is rather unusual in their canon.
- Abney Park's "Virus" is a Type 2 that makes Christianity sound like, well, a virus that turns people into zombies.
- "Stigmata Martyr" counts too, about Jesus being controlled by his followers.
- Bad Religion (naturally) has "Requiem for Dissent," which is a low-key Type 2.
- Of course, this trope is basically BR's bread and butter, even though the bandmembers' actual views of religion are decidedly more charitable than many think.
- Jethro Tull's "Wind-Up" is a Type 2, especially against indoctrination of children.
- Connor Oberst's "When the president talks to God" (type 2, by way of Take That, George W. Bush)
- The Dead Kennedys: "Religious vomit", aka "All religions suck" (type 2, at least, and about as subtle as you'd expect.
- "God Rest Ye Unitarians" God Rest Ye, Unitarians" is pretty clearly Type 2.
- Jill Sobule, "Letting Go of God" - Type 2ish, but very amicable. Written to accompany Julia Sweeney's one woman show of the same name. Both the show and the song focus much more on Sweeney's own search for her own beliefs than any sort of anger or resentment.
Sweeney (to her image of God): "It's not you; it's me."
- "God Said" from Leonard Bernstein's Mass is more of a Type 2 example.
God made us the boss.
God gave us the cross.
We turned it into a sword
To spread the Word of the Lord.
We use His holy decrees
To do whatever we please. (Yeah!)
And it was good! (Yeah!)
And it was good! (Yeah!)
And it was goddamn good!!!
- MC Hawking, "What We Need More of is Science" and "Fuck the Creationists" - Type 2.
- Sam Philips "I need love" (non-atheist type 2: "I need God, not the political church", later covered by Sixpence None The Richer)
- Public Image Ltd.: "Religion I", "Religion II", "Annalisa" (type 2). The two former are inspired by Lydon's anger at the handling of his mother's request for last rites. The latter is based on a true story that also inspired The Exorcism of Emily Rose. That film is sympathetic towards the exorcists. Lydon's view, meanwhile:
"Think I'm proud to be your enemy
Take your hands off of me
You're worse than the thing that possessed me."
- "Still a Lie" - Type 2.
- Tim Minchin has done quite a few of these, including "If You Open Your Mind Too Much, Your Brain Will Fall Out" (Type 2), "Pope Song" (Type 3) and "Ten Foot Cock and a Few Hundred Virgins" (A mixture of all three).
- Tori Amos again: "Crucify" (type 2), "Icicle" (type 2/3 with side of Take That by way of A Date with Rosie Palms)
- Violet UK 's "Sex and Religion" is either a type 2 calling out religion as merely another form of sexual masochism or a type 3 Take That at a religious con artist that ensnared the songwriter's friend into a cult.
- The theme of Epica's The Divine Conspiracy. Unless it's not (someone confirm?)
- Not The Divine Conspiracy specifically but Mark Jansen has always loved this trope even when he was with After Forever.
- Tom Lehrer: "Vatican Rag", which pokes fun at Catholic Dogma and the Second Vatican Council's attempts at reform.
- Spitting Image: "Atheist Choir" and "My God Is Bigger Than Your God"
- The latter also seems to be telling the agnostics and athiests off for fighting back and making the situation worse, instead of just getting on with things.
- Sportin' Life's big number, "It Ain't Necessarily So", from Porgy and Bess.
- Basically every song by industrial band Vigilante falls under here.
- Voltaire's song "God Thinks" is a Take That against all those who are "self-righteous, judgmental, first to throw the stone/using his name, for your own agenda."
- "Shallow Be Thy Game" by Red Hot Chili Peppers is a take that at organized religion in general, but mainly the Catholic church. It's a non-atheist example though, as it does contain the lyric "Your hell is something scary, I prefer a loving God".
- Subverted in that the band have practised religions other than Christianity. The song "Falling Into Grace" is essentially a love song but sounds similar to Hindu meditation and even has "om" in it. The band have a guru on tour and Anthony practices Kabbalah Meditation (an offshoot of Judaism).
- The Fall's "Hey Luciani" is an odd(ish) example, as you'd expect, being pro-John Paul I and accusing the Church of being corrupt and killing him off.
- Los Campesinos!! don't really hold anything back on this front. See the "I learned more from toilet stalls" lyric in "We've Got Your Back (Documented Minor Emotional Breakdown #2)" .
- John Lennon's "Imagine" is about as non-angry a Type 2 example as you can get, as it's mainly a song about peace, with religion and the wars fought over it being a primary obstacle to that peace. Of course, the song seems to imply that all war would vanish if religion (and certain other social forces) did, making Lennon a bit of an Idealist.
- The aptly titled "God" says that "God is a concept by which we measure our pain." and that "I just believe in me, Yoko and me."
- Metallica's "The God That Failed" is a Type 2 rail against blind faith, with the lyrics and song material inspired by James Hetfield's anguish about the circumstances surrounding the death of his mother, who refused medical treatment of her cancer and solely relied on the belief that God would heal her.
- At The Gates is all over this trope.
- The In Flames song "Goliaths Disarm their Davids" is about trying to free oneself from religion, calling it "a mess of psychotic chaos that once I mistook myself."
- Also, Zombie Inc, about, among other things, Mary.
- Dark Tranquillity has "The Treason Wall" and "The Lesser Faith". "The Lesser Faith" is aimed at religious people who don't justify their faith, "The Treason Wall" saying that it only causes conflict.
- Machinae Supremacy has Violator, which is a Take That towards blind faith and the society it creates.
- Franz Ferdinand gives us the interesting example of "The Fallen", which is actually addressed to Jesus; he's apparently back and the speaker's happy to see him. As Alex Kapranos (who read Theology at the University of Glasgow for a year) would have it, Jesus Was Way Cool, and were he alive to day, would be hanging with the poor and downtrodden, and not the self-declared Christians drinking champagne and riding in limousines. (In other words, the last Christian died on the Cross, and Christ is so unlike the Christians).
- Rush has several songs that protest organized religion and superstitions without being atheistic. Freewill protests the concepts of predestination and astrology. Totem pokes fun at various practices of various organized religions. Compare with Prime Mover, which is a Deist song that mentions something (likely someone) behind the scenes in the universe (setting clouds in motion) while allowing humans autonomy.
- Frank Zappa: About a third of You Are What You Is is either a 2 or a 3:
- "Dumb All Over". Clearly giving a Take That to all religion, so mostly Type 2, with a little Type 1 on the side.
We can't be dumb if we're just following God's orders. He put it right in this book here that he made us all to be just like Him. So if we're dumb, then God is dumb, and maybe a little ugly on the side.
- "The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing", It's all right there in the title. Type 2.
Some take the Bible for what it's worth
When it says that the meek shall inherit the Earth
But I Heard that some Sheik just bought New Jersey last week
And you suckers ain't gettin' nothing.
- Amon Amarth's "Slaves Of Fear", "Bastards of a Lying Breed" and "Annihilation of Hammerfest", about Thor reclaiming Mjolnir from the "unbearded men" (christians).
- Everything by Fleshgod Apocalypse.
- Exodus' "Shroud Of Urine" and "Children Of A Worthless God"
- Sabaton's "Burn Your Crosses"
- Motörhead's "(Don't Need) Religion"
- "Religion Song (Put Away The Gun)" by Everything Else.
- Much of God Hates Us All and Christ Illusion by Slayer, functioning as Kerry King Tracts which, surprisingly, are voiced by a Catholic, frontman Tom Araya. The follow-up, 2009's World Painted Blood, toned this down a lot more, avoiding the subject of religion outside of one or two songs. Their material in The Eighties did talk about religion too, but from a Rock Me, Asmodeus! standpoint.
- Hurt's "Rapture" and "Talking to God".
- Crosby, Stills & Nash's "Cathedral".
- Robbie Fulks' "God Isn't Real".
- The Proletariat's "Religion Is The Opium Of The Masses".
- Roy Harper's "The Spirit Lives" is solidly in Type 2 territory: "And you can put me down for what I've said/But goodness only lives where God is dead." His later song "If" is more subtle, and straddles Types 2 and 3, with more muted criticisms of religious doctrines, and more pointed skewerings of religious leaders.
- Samael's "The Cross" is a mix of Type 2 and Type 3, specifically against christianity: "harvest of love and light, dictated by war and hate, supported by those who hide. It lives in your mind, whatever you may say, whoever you may pray; christianity worldwide.
- Vader's "Helleluyah (god is dead)".
- The bands belonging to the Arabic Anti-islamic League naturally feature quite a few of these, most evident in Seeds of Iblis' "No Islam".
- Much of Dismember's "The god that never was" album, most notably the eponymous song, "Blood for Paradise" and "Where no ghost is holy", which proclaims all religions adversary.
- Elton John's "Religion" does not portray religion as bad, just rather absurd.
- Jacques Brel 's music fits in this trope too.
- Leonard Bernstein: "Things Get Broken," the Celebrant's BSOD Song, is more or less Type 3.
- Metallica's "Leper Messiah" and Insane Clown Posse's "Hellelujah" are Type 3, attacking religious con-artists who fleece their flock in the monetary sense.
- The Beatles' "Sexy Sadie", Take That from John to the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
- Most of Judas' numbers in Jesus Christ Superstar tend to fall here, though they could also be read as type 1.
- Bob Dylan's "Jokerman" makes fun of The Bible and religious figures in it.
- "My God" and "Hymn 43" by Jethro Tull; the latter containing the line If Jesus saves/well he better save himself/from the gory glory seekers/who use his name in death!
- Earthsuit's "Against the Gain" is a (very clearly) non-Atheist example, although it probably ruffled a few feathers at Sparrow Records all the same. "I've been sent to your boat to rock it/men flood Hell while your hands are in your pocket/Separate from the life source and endorse and force secret religious codes like Morse/Constraints, why do you seize us/Just give me Jesus!" (It does omit the demo version's cry of "Stupid religion!", possibly just for stylistic reasons.)
- Ray Stevens' "Would Jesus Wear a Rolex" is a very religious rant against televangelists.
- Jesus He Knows Me by Genesis, all about televangelists.
- R.E.M.'s "New Test Leper" could be considered as part of Type 3. I can't say that I love Jesus/That would be a hollow claim/He did make some observations/And I quoted them today/"Judge not lest ye be judged"/What a beautiful refrain/The studio audience disagrees/Have His lambs all gone astray?
- Limp Bizkit's "The Priest", in response to the Catholic sex scandals.
- Rush has BU2B which is protesting spiritual leaders shoving down specific dogmas down people's throats- not so much belief in a higher power.
- Death's "Spiritual Healing" is an attack on televangelists and faith healers, particularly the infamous Peter Popoff.
- Tool's "Opiate" is an attack framed around Marx's famous assertion ("Religion is the opiate of the masses.")
- Frank Zappa tends to be even more brutal in his Type 3 songs than his Type 2. "Heavenly Bank Account" on You Are What You Is is about Televangelists in general whereas "Token of My Extreme" on Joe's Garage is about a Religious Leader name of L. Ron Hoover. Not real transparent, that. And then there are the live versions one can find of "Penguin in Bondage" and "Lonesome Cowboy Jim (Nee Burt)" about Jimmy Swaggart and his failure to live up to his own preaching.
Where's my Prostitute?
- "Jesus Thinks You're a Jerk" is another good example of Zappa's type 3 songs. It's a nine-minute attack on Pat Robertson and other televangelists. It was recorded while Robertson was running for president and at the end Zappa encourages the audience to register to vote.
- Dream Theater's song In the Name of God, which argues against violence and morally wrong acts comitted in the name of God.
- "Godless" by Danzig is a rant against organized religion.
- "Holy Smoke" by Iron Maiden deals with televangelist scandals of The Eighties, alluding to Jimmy Swaggart and Tammy Faye Bakker among others.
- Epica embraces this trope. "Cry For The Moon" is about the catholic priest incidents and "The Divine Conspiracy" (Album and song itself) also criticizes the negative aspects of all religions and points out that they have a lot more in common then they believe.
- The Embrace That Smothers which theme is "the danger involved in organized religion." The songs therefore contain ideas that could be considered "anti-religious". which they share with After Forever (Mark Jansen was a former member).
- "Haleluja" by Rammstein is about pedophilia among Catholic priests - "he knows what it means to love his neighbour/turn around slowly, turn around"...
- Roy Zimmerman's song "Jerry Falwell's God" is a Take That against the evangelical precaher Jerry Falwell.
- Steve Taylor built much of his career on tearing down corrupt televangelists in his lyrics during the 1980s, when they were still popular within the church. This was a pretty controversial stand for him to take at the time, being a Christian himself.
- Dead Kennedys' "Moral Majority" is a Type 3 example, being composed of Take Thats at several right-wing Christian figures as well as the Reagan administration.
- Willie D's "Guess My Religion" and the Insane Clown Posse's cover of this song is a Type 3 example about the Church has some messed-up things going on in their system and how some of the people that go to Church don't really practice what they preach for more than one day per week.
- Between The Buried And Me's "Arsonist" is a furious tirade against the Westboro Baptist Church.
- EBM Band V2A has Jesus Loves You. While the line "Abandon all hope, Jesus Loves You" suggests a type 1 song, it is actually aimed at organised religion itself, as the lines "Man made religion, religion controls man" and "No one cares if we live or die" show.
- Black Sabbath's "TV Crimes" reserves all of its venom for televangelists and the people who send them money.
- U2's spirituality has not stopped them from calling out people who manipulate religion to selfish ends.
- "Desire" criticizes con artists who masquerade as preachers. In performances of the song on the Zoo TV Tour, Bono would dress up as "Mirrorball Man", an exaggerated portrayal of a greedy televangelist who cares more about money than Jesus.
- "Please" calls out members of the Irish Republican Army and related groups who use religious themes to justify violence.
- Poison's Tear Jerker of a Power Ballad "Something to believe in" slips some rather bitter words against corrupt televangelists in the first paragraphs of the song.
- Casting Crowns is a Christian band that is not afraid to call out lazy and hypocritical believers. Listen to "If We Are The Body", "Stained Glass Masquerade", "Altar and the Door", and "City On A Hill". Their premise is not that God is at fault, but believers who don't live up to the standards set by Jesus.
- James's "God Only Knows" was written after the band's experiences with the Lifewave movement went south, when they found out how hypocritical the cult's leader John Yarr really was ("My guru has been sleeping with adepts and with sheep / While I was fucking celibate, self-righteous in belief").
- Mitch Benn's "We Haven't Got A Clue" and "We're All As Rubbish As Each Other" have elements of this, distrusting anyone who says they have The Answers and wants the rest of us to follow them.
- Toshi's solo song "Airport" is symbolically about his experience of leaving a Scam Religion that had exploited him for years.
- Heavy Metal band The Showdown's song "Fanatics & Whores" is a rant about televangelists and others who use religion to get money. Notably, this the Showdown are in fact a Christian band (sort of).
Examples Within Other Media: