My high school music teacher told me as I was writing my first fugue that music is not written in a vacuum. What he meant was the music we as individuals make is inspired and influenced by who we are, what we believe, and what we do. The same principle, in one way or another, applies to most media of art. So, as one sits down to write a song or a poem, he or she will write a reflection of his or her person. The results are songs and poems about life, troubles, happiness, relationships, and anything else we come across or think about in our daily lives.
Of course, one of largest pieces of most people's identities is religion or spirituality. For example, The Beatles' newfound Buddhist and eastern spirituality was famously evident in the last few years of their existence and can be heard on the song “Across the Universe”, which features John Lennon's meditative chant. Other musicians have written of their personal struggles and qualms through a spiritual lens since Lennon and The Beatles.
In the last decade, with the rise of evangelical Christianity has come Christian Rock. Some can say this has been a genre of young people expressing their faith with the music they know and love and are familiar with. Others may argue that many Christian Rock bands are savvy business people who can spot a good opportunity to jump on a growing trend, in this case conservative Christianity, to make a fair bit of cash. More realistic people may argue the motives of these artists is a mixture of the two. Either way, God and religion play an integral part in music today.
But what about the Godless? The Atheists? It just so happens that, along with musicians who write of their journeys by the hand of the Christian God, of which there are many, there are some modern musicians who write with the strong conviction of their nonbelief. “New Atheism”, led by such thinkers as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and the late Christopher Hitchens, has been gaining steam in the last two decades and its critique of modern religion, especially Christianity, has found a voice in music.
One British poet and rapper, Scroobius Pip, has used his music to both question the reasons of modern belief and used the rhetoric of the Ten Commandments humorously. He first came to prominence with the YouTube video “Thou Shalt Always Kill”. It's roughly three and a half minutes of thou-shalt-nots which ends up being a hilarious string of one-liners. A personal favorite is, “Thou shalt not use poetry, art, or music to get into girls' pants. Use it to get into their heads.” Other lines carry the same funny and ethical messages: “Thou shalt give equal worth to tragedies that occur in non-English speaking countries as to those that occur in English Speaking countries.”
“Thou Shalt Always Kill” is a humorous and somewhat light-hearted piece which simply uses the moralizing rhetoric of Christianity to make a few clever points, but the questioning and addressing of belief and faith in modern society comes to the forefront in the more evocative “Letter from God”. Both songs should be investigated on your own YouTube machines, and especially “Letter from God”. What the title suggests, the first line confirms: “This is a letter, from God to Man.” After some well-written and provocative lines, the song concludes, “So I apoligise for any mistake I made and for when words were misconstrued, / but this apology it to Mother Nature, BECAUSE I CREATED YOU!” Scroobius Pip uses the language of religion to ask questions of how and why we act. There is a slight edge against and criticism of modern Christianity in some of his work, but it doesn't even approach the challenge to religion and call to reason of Greydon Square.
Greydon Square grew up in Compton, joined the Army at a young age to escape the streets, and was honorably discharged after serving in the first years of the Iraq war. Following his service, Greydon Square went to college to study physics. While studying, he began to question his previous religious beliefs. By the time he was out of school, Greydon was writing atheist raps calling for rationality when it came to personal belief and faith.
Arguably his best song and most provocative song yet has been “Stockholm Syndrome”, which features the line “You can tell that Hell and God are manmade: / They both want unquestioned authority and demand slaves / And any incarnation of slavery is not good / So from here we can deduce Stockholm Syndrome is not hood.” Those of you scratching your heads at this nearly-inexplicable reference to Stockholm Syndrome can find answers in the chorus: “I don't know about you, but this looks like imprisonment. / What's worse is that the prisoners don't know that they're prisoners / Even defend the tactics that are used to imprison them.”
Greydon Square, along with some other atheist musicians and public figures, uses some very strong language and comparisons, though it is undeniable he uses his passion and his knowledge to make a fairly convincing point. Even if one does not agree with atheism or its proponents, the questions asked and the conclusions reached by some atheists and by modern atheism deserve a deeper look by those who are unfamiliar with them.