There are certain things you're not supposed to talk about in polite company, and religion is one. Luckily, such rules don't apply to rock 'n' roll, and lyrics about god -- or the nonexistence of god -- have long been fair play. Great lines have been written by believers and nonbelievers alike, and while we could easily put together a list of the 50, 500 or 5,000 best religious-themed lyrics, we gave in to sloth -- our favorite deadly sin -- and settled on 5. Read our list of 5 Great Lyrics About God -- then holler back in the comments section and tell us why we're either right on the money or headed straight to hell.
Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros, 'X-Ray Style''You'd think that god wouldn't be so hard / when you see all the little children running in the backyard."
In the Old Testament, God never hesitates to bring the pain, and in the thousands of years since that book was written, an endless series of wars, famines, genocides, plagues and other hardships have defined the human experience, leading many to label the Man Upstairs as a bit of a hard-ass. But sometimes, the former Clash frontman suggests on this late-career comeback gem, life's little joys -- the sight of one's children playing, corny as it sounds -- are enough to question God's apparent coldness.
Bright Eyes, 'We Are Nowhere and It's Now'"Why are you scared to dream of god / when it's salvation that you want?"
A reluctant spokesperson for a supposedly apathetic generation, Bright Eyes mastermind Conor Oberst challenges atheists with this line, granting them their opinions -- and hell, he might even share their disbelief -- but asking them to admit that they, too, are searching for the same things in their godless lives that churchgoers pray for each Sunday. Appearing on 'I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning,' which arrived in 2005, the height of Red State v. Blue State tensions, this line marks Oberst a uniter, not a divider.
Bad Religion, 'Stranger Than Fiction'"Life Is the crummiest book I ever read / There isn't a hook / Just a lot of cheap shots and pictures to shock / and characters an amateur would never dream up."
If you're looking for anti-religious lyrics, the Bad Religion songbook is a great place to start. But this isn't boilerplate atheist ranting. Singer and lyricist Greg Graffin is a PhD professor with extensive knowledge in zoology, anthropology, paleontology and natural sciences, and here, he plays literary critic, using life's lack of plot and preponderance of badly sketched players as proof there's no divine screenwriter dictating the action. And if there is, dude's a hack.
The The, 'Armageddon Days Are Here (Again)'"But if you think that Jesus Christ is coming / honey, you've got another thing coming / If he ever finds out who's hi-jacked his name / he'll cut out his heart and turn in his grave."
Matt Johnson, leader of lone constant member of U.K. post-punks The The, isn't the first to suggest that people of all faiths have become overly obsessed with dogma and lost sight of the messages underpinning their sacred texts. Here, though, he makes that point with the right combination of anger and humor, and even if he's convinced an imminent holy war will bring about man's destruction, he's not going to let it stand in the way of a great rock 'n' roll song.
Depeche Mode, 'Mercy In You'"I would lose my way again / be led hopelessly astray again / just so I could pray again/ for the mercy in you."
Martin Gore's lyrics are nothing if not ambiguous, and since he hit his stride in the late '80s as Depeche Mode's main songwriter, the leather-loving bleach-blond synth-pop auteur has blurred the line between sex and religion better than almost anyone. With singer Dave Gahan, he's got the perfect mouthpiece, and here, Gore hits on man's fundamental desire to humble himself, submit to a higher power and beg, in an almost childlike way, for forgiveness. So powerful is that sensation of being redeemed -- and perhaps of being loved unconditionally -- that Gore admits he'll keep on sinning, just to get another fix. Whether he's singing to god or a lover, the feeling is the same.