Music is an experience that spans generations, cultures, and beliefs. There isn’t a person on this planet who hasn’t been moved in a profound way by some form of music. Whether it’s a symphonic score, a rock ballad, or an a cappella voice group, music has something for everyone.
In addition, music is about spreading ideas and evoking emotion through the power of words and sounds. Christian music is particularly adept at tugging on the heart strings. As a former Catholic, I can attest to the transcendental power of song. “Singing is like praying three times” goes the old saying, and when I had that belief in a God, it sure felt like I was closer to him/her/it. Now, however, I realize how tainted my listening experience was with narrow thinking. Some of those songs I can’t listen to anymore because the lyrics, which I had previously thought of as inspiring and uplifting, are actually depressive and oppressive.
When I fully and consciously embraced my atheism, I came to realize how many bands I already listened to were subtly atheistic, and how much more music there was in the world. No longer did I feel obligated to listen just to Christian rock. My world was expanded and my listening tastes broadened.
I wanted to take the opportunity to showcase some of my favorite music that has some relation to atheism as well as expand your own repertoire. Fair warning though, I listen to typically heavier music and the music I list here might not be for everyone.
Rush – I’ve been a Rush fan all of my life. Literally. Both my parents are huge fans and I grew up rocking out to Lerxst, Dirk, and Pratt. I’ve known all the lyrics to the songs for many years, but somehow I never listened to the lyrics before. Once I started truly absorbing the words I came to realize just how nonreligious these guys are. The most obvious song by them is Freewill, but in more recent years (the past two decades) songs like, Ghost of a Chance, Faithless, BU2B, Totem, and several others have been more open about their lack of belief. Rush is one of the great bands of the 20th and 21st century and you would be remiss if you didn’t check them out.
Bastard Opera – This is a newer band I recently discovered through r/atheism on Reddit. They’re open about their atheism and a few of their songs deal with the topic. Being such a fan of rock music I checked it out and truly enjoyed it. They have one EP out, with The Movement being my favorite song, and they’re currently working on another.
Billy Talent – I was introduced to this band back as a teenager and they did a good job of feeding my teenage angst. However, once I grew and started really listening to the lyrics, I realized how smart they are. The music is good and heavy with songs like Devil in a Midnight Mass and Viking Death March painting a clear message of their philosophy. Highly recommended.
Metallica – Another classic band. Go through their discography and you can see how they use religious imagery to entertain and highlight hypocrisy within religion. Some of my favorite songs are The God That Failed and Enter Sandman.
Tim Minchin – This guy is a genius. Not only is he a genuinely funny guy, he’s also a brilliant writer and musician. Some of his work can be quite inappropriate (and probably offensive to some) but I’ve loved nearly everything he’s done. Seeing him at The Reason Rally in March was a real treat. Check out Ten Foot Cock and a Few Hundred Virgins or Fuck the Motherfucker for a taste of what he’s like.
Atheist – I couldn’t not mention this band. They’re not really on my typical playlist, but I have listened to some of their work. They’re an 80’s death metal band whose name is too apropos to ignore.
These are just a few of my favorite bands that I listen to all the time and there are plenty more bands that I didn’t mention (Bad Religion and Godsmack come to mind). I’ve linked to a site that lists many more bands that are inspired by irreligiousness and atheism.
The cool thing about being a freethinker is that we’re not limited in our potential experiences. Nobody is saying you can’t listen to something because they have a different philosophy or something is sacrilegious. I remember, quite vividly, the inner turmoil that I would experience when I wanted to listen to something but it didn’t jive with my religious upbringing.
The whole world is open to those of use who are free of thought. I hope you enjoy some of the music I’ve highlighted and I’d love to hear in the comments if you have any more suggestions.
This article was written by Taylor Murphy, proud SLUT and best friend of the Atheist Slut. I’m also a scientist who loves to write, read, travel, and explore. Thank you for taking the time to read my work. Truly, it means the world to me. If you want to learn more about my work and life, check out my personal blog at www.tayloramurphy.com. My other blog, Humanist Growth, is where I discuss personal development, life, and travel from a secular humanist’s perspective. It will be launching in mid-2013 and I’d love it if you’d check it out. In the meantime, if you want to ask me anything or just say Hi, feel free to hit me up @tayloramurphy1 on Twitter or email me at taylor.a.murphy at vanderbilt.edu. I look forward to hearing from you!