I really like XTC (the band, that is — I’ve never tried the drug), and I’m an atheist. So logically, I should love their atheist anthem “Dear God,” right?
But I don’t love it. I don’t even like it. I can stand to listen to it (Andy Partridge writes good tunes), but I actively dislike the lyrics. Here’s why:
First of all, there’s the underlying assumption that God actually does exist, whether we believe in him or not. The same assumption behind the question “Do you believe in God?” The same assumption that gets some atheists’ backs up because they’ve already been put in a rhetorical box just by the way the question is framed.
Secondly, there’s the assumption that the God in question is the Judeo-Christian-Muslim one, as if it’s the only one worth talking about. You could argue, therefore, that “Dear God” isn’t an atheist anthem, merely an anti-Christian (or anti-Judeo-Christian-Muslim) one, but I don’t know of anyone who thinks of it like that.
But my main objection is that the lyrics are just so simplistic, superficial and, frankly, childish. They sound like the rantings of a 14-year-old who just discovered that the universe isn’t perfect. It’s the kind of argument that Christian apologists set up as a strawman, just because it’s so easy to knock down.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with the universe having some overly simplistic whining about religion. But the problem is, because XTC is a fairly famous band (and a good one), “Dear God” is easily the most famous song in the world (at least the English-speaking world) that carries an atheist or anti-religion message.
As such, it creates the impression that the fatuous, petulant whining found in the song is the best the atheist side can do when it comes to critiquing religion through song. Surely that’s not the case … is it?
Could any you, my legions of loyal readers (and by “legion” I of course mean “tiny handful”), come up with better examples? I’d love to hear about them.