Reading Time: 5 minutes

I have decided to recompile a list of my favourite atheistic /agnostic / philosophical songs. There are many on other lists which I do not know and feel I would like to, but here is my short list. I have made a comment with each and maybe copied the odd lyric to explain why it is in the list. I will also try to list any YouTube links or videos to the songs. If you watch any video here, watach the live one of Frank Turner below. I think that sums up the difference between the UK and the US in 4 minutes. Cynical bastards we are.

Please add your own selections in the comments below and if I don’t know them, I am sure to want to check them out. Ed Clint at Incredulous has written a great post about Billy Joel (link updated to now work).

1)      Ring the Bells – James

This is a classic song from my youth; James are my favourite band. I saw them other year in Bournemouth and they played this song. Before this song, Tim Booth, the lead singer, stated that they were playing a Greenpeace gig and after the song a group of 5 kids came up to him, telling him they were all in a Christian cult and found that this song helped them escape. Nice.

The pertinent lyric is:

“Got to keep awake to what is happening.

I can’t see a thing through my ambitions,

I no longer feel like God is watching over me

Got to tell the world we’ve all been dreaming

This is not the end, a new beginning

I no longer feel my God is watching over me.”


2)      Retreat! – Cursive

The album Happy Hollow by Cursive was an great find. Some interesting musical arrangements and some fantastic lyrics. The whole album is an intelligent statement against religion, from songs like Bad Science, Big Bang and Hymns for the Heathen.

The pertinent lyric in this excellent song – sod it, the whole lot:

They took the shrine to the temple,

But he wasn’t there.

They checked the mosque and the chapel,

No, not there.

Since you’ve been away on holiday,

The natives are all nightmares.

Since you’ve been away on holiday,

I did dream you’d disappear.

You keep us on a leash we can’t conceive,

But still must adhere to.

The natives are whipping each other,

Over which god they prefer.

I wish you’d do us all a favor,

And just defer

Since you’ve been away on holiday,

We don’t know which god is which.

And since you’ve been on holiday,

It’s been harder to give a shit.

So if you stayed away on holiday,

We could get on with this.

I mean we could evolve like this,

If you’d just call it quits.

Since you’ve been away on holiday,

We’ve stomached your archaic rule.

And Since you’ve been away on holiday,

We’ve hosted some wars over you.

So stay away on holiday – my friend,

We don’t need your services;

Your excuses —

Your mysterious ways

What a mysterious way to behave.

What a mysterious way to just go away.

Lord let us go


3)      Hard Believer – First Aid Kit

 These Swedish ladies hard crafted a sugar-sweet folksy composition with an acid-sharp set of lyrics. Great.

The pertinent lyric is:

“Well I see you’ve got your bible

Your delusion imagery

Well I don’t need your eternity

Or your meaning to feel free

I just live because I love to

And that’s enough you see

So don’t come preach about morality

That’s just human sense to me”


4)      Glory Hallelujah – Frank Turner

This alt-folk rocker from near me in the UK has prodiced what is probably the most anthemic ahteistic song out there. You should see it in Wembley Arena with 10,000 people singing the chorus! Videos below.

Brothers and sisters, have you heard the news?
The storm has lifted and there’s nothing to lose,
So swap your confirmation for your dancing shoes,
Because there never was no God.
Step out of the darkness and onto the streets,
Forget about the fast, let’s have a carnival feast,
Raise up your lowered head to hear the liberation beat,
Because there never was no God.

There is no God,
So clap your hands together,
There is no God,
No heaven and no hell.
There is no God,
We’re all in this together,
There is no God,
So ring that victory bell.


Better still, watch this live version.


5)      Afterlife – Shelley Segal.

Anyone who has not bought “An Atheist Album” by Shelley Segal, the Australian singer songwriter, should do so now. it’s AWESOME. I canot find the album version on You Tube, so this acoustic live version will have to do.

Thousands and thousands are humming that the second comings coming
And environmental responsibility is succumbing
To the suicidal longing for paradise
Can’t we see it’s already before our eyes?!

All that makes us who we are we find, cannot survive without a mind
But you’re so afraid to die you’re willing to sacrifice
Living through it all with the knowledge that you have only ONE LIFE

Follow the guidebook for an afterlife
Which one do I try which one do I try?
I’d like to believe that i’ll never die
But I cant comply, no I can’t comply

From the day that you are born, you are going to die
It’s not a pleasant thought at all but way that I deal with it
Is to treasure each moment with my surroundings and those I love

I spend my days, trying to engage with the world,
To learn as much about everything as I can
Using the body of knowledge which is our shared heritage to further understand
The historical and evolutionary context of man.

To hold revelation in a higher place is to spit in the face of those who chose to dedicate their lives to enrich our own


6)      One of the Three – James

Another James song – the result of them being my favourite band, I suppose! This song talks of the Holy Trinity. It’s a mournfully touching song.

The pertinent lyric is:

You were one, one of the three

I need proof before belief

Oh, well, you just knew they’d come for you

So it was suicide, suicide

Oh, well, now you got just what you want

I hope you’re satisfied

I need proof before belief

Oh, well, I guess you’re not to blame for what they’ve

Done in your name, in your name

Oh, well, it’s a shame you got so famous for a sacrifice


7)      This is a Lie – The Cure

Robert Smith is fairly well known as an atheist. This song is a lilting ode to the lie of religion, and is actually a plea for agnosticism, it seems.

The pertinent lyric is:

But this isn’t truth, this isn’t right

This isn’t love, this isn’t life, this isn’t real

This is a lie

How each of us believes

I’ve never really known

In heaven unseen and hell unknown

How each of us dreams to understand anything at all

Why each of decides

I’ve never been sure


So now it’s over to you. Any suggestions that are worthy will be linked here. For starters, here is sir_russ’ suggestion on my original posting of this:

Life Don’t Have To Mean Nothing At All – Tom T. Hall

And others to mention:

Eternal Life – Jeff Buckley

There Goes God – Crowded House

Why I Don’t Believe in God – Everclear

The Only Way (Hymn)  – Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Dear God – XTC

Imagine – John Lennon

Shallow Be Thy Name – Red Hot Chili Peppers

In fact, just check out Michael Nugent’s list of 200 songs.


A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments