Religiously Skeptical Gems 2.0 | Playlist
There are numerous songs written about religion that aren’t gospel or CCM songs. Here are 16 religiously skeptical gems by secular artists.
Religion is very important to a number of folks, even as secular as society is as a whole. For many, a relationship with God supersedes everything else, including loved ones. That said, not everyone likes religion. Some dislike the institution, yet still maintain a relationship with God – the whole spiritual but not religious thing. Some oppose religion and don’t believe in God either. Everyone has their own opinions about religion, spirituality, and God.
Interestingly, there have been a number of songs written about religion, many of which aren’t gospel or contemporary Christian music songs. Rock, pop, and R&B artists have all tackled their spiritual walks or lack thereof. An ever-growing catalogue of religiously skeptical music is building. Some of these songs denounce religion, but some merely question the stock society puts into it, as well as the negative and adverse effects. This list analyzes 16 religiously skeptical gems. This playlist serves as an update of 11 Religiously Skeptical Gems, published August 29, 2017.
1. Marilyn Manson, “SAY10”
Album: Heaven Upside Down, 2017
The left-hand path is empowered on “SAY10,” clearly a play on Satan. Making “SAY10” even more enigmatic and frightening is the music. Initially, on the first verse, “SAY10” sounds completely foreboding, with Manson singing in a whisper. On the chorus, the deck of cards is completely revealed with a catchy, yet incredibly blasphemous hook. Chocked full of religious references, “SAY10” transcends its beastly title.
2. Sam Smith, “Pray”
Album: The Thrill of It All, 2017 | Previous Playlist Appearance: Ballads From 2017 That’ll Give You Those Feels, Vol. 1
“You won’t find me in church (no) reading the Bible (no) / I am still here and I’m still your disciple / I’m down on my knees, I’m beggin’ you, please / I’m broken, alone and afraid.”
As aforementioned, Sam Smith excels at balladry. On “Too Good at Goodbyes,” he focuses on the plight of love. On “Pray,” the second single from his sophomore album, The Thrill of it All, he shifts to religion. He expresses his skepticism towards religion, yet feels he needs to pray and try to believe in something.
“I’m young and I’m foolish, I’ve made bad decisions / I block out the news, turn my back on religion… / Lately, that shit ain’t been gettin’ me higher / I lift up my head and the world is on fire / There’s dread in my heart and fear in my bones / And I just don’t know what to say / Maybe I’ll pray…/ I have never believed in You, no / But I’m gonna pray.”
3. Macklemore, “Church”
Album: Gemini, 2017
When it comes to religion, musicians are ‘all over the map.’ Some are outspokenly religious, some are quietly/moderately religious or spiritual, and others are indifferent. On “Church,” Macklemore speaks on his religious background, but after listening, one doesn’t get the impression he’s religious per se. Ultimately, his faith seems complicated.
“Mom and pops, they used to take us to church / Saying ‘if you don’t believe, then the prayin’ don’t work’ / With the beatbox I got free on the pavement, I’m first / Music brought me to my knees, I found faith in a verse / So dear spirit, I know I gotta take a chance / And my mistakes and shortcomings finally made a man / I got some issues, I got problems, gotta make amends…”
It seems that Macklemore is thankful for the blessings bestowed upon him – his daughter, his career, etc. But, how religious or spiritual is he? Examining “Miracle” that precedes “Church,” if we take him literally, he’s not. Yet, the way he ends the featured lyric below is a common Christian confirmation of agreement or truth.
“…The praise won’t save me, and neither will the fan mail / I’d be a sinner, but thank God I’m not religious / And I’m addicted, drugs and women, there’s no difference / I know the right, but the wrong is just so tempting / I got a phobia, fear of what I’m missing, amen.”
4. Declan McKenna, “Bethlehem”
Album: What Do You Think About the Car?, 2017
Religious skepticism plays a large role on “Bethlehem,” evidenced by the lyrical references. The connotation is negative here, something McKenna addressed in an interview with Teen Vogue. That negative stuff he refers to are Christians who are “holier than thou,” yet sinful in their own right. On the chorus, he sings:
“Because I’m in Bethlehem / I got a seat in heaven/ And though I’m heaven sent / I can do as I want and you don’t have the right to choose.”
“Bethlehem” is another example of the genius of Declan McKenna. His messaging is pitch perfect here, even if it will upset some.