How I Lost My Religion Without the Help of Michael Stipe

Losing my faith was not only deeply personal but also a complicated untangling of odds and ends beliefs that I’d managed to acquire during my formative years on the buckle of the Bible belt. So, I figured what better way to introduce myself than to consolidate all of those years of slowly peeling off the god bandaid that resulted in oh so much emotional and intellectual turmoil into a list of five songs that helped me off the narrow path for my inaugural Mad Art Lab post. One thing that draws me to art is its ability to help see things in a different way and allowing a deeper ability to empathize because of new insights. The following songs certainly did that for me during a time when I seriously put my Christianity to the test.

1. Girl in the War – Josh Ritter

This song found its way to me shortly after I left High School in order to help fulfill the stereotype of questioning one’s upbringing after heading off to become more educated. Memories of smoking menthols with earbuds attached playing this on endless repeat still come to mind when I listen to this song. Having been a stubborn pro-war conservative at the time, this song ultimately led me to consider the hellishness of war and what often gets carried out in the name of god.

2. Casimir Pulaski Day – Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens remains in heavy rotation for my iTunes library 9 years after having first listened to him, and for good reason. Hauntingly beautiful, this song presents a deeply personal story of losing a love interest to “cancer of the bone” and questioning god as a result.

3. Jesus – Brand New

The Devil and God are Raging Inside of Me was definitely integral to me during the time of its release. It was a great ‘Album to Lose Your Faith to for Depressed Kids.’

4. This Too Shall Be Made Right – Derek Webb

It’s always struck me as funny how many Christian musicians have aided in leading me from god. If anything, they were the last thing I held on to just so I could tell myself that, “Not all of us are crazy. There are still some with real compassion,” and Derek Webb was certainly at the top of that list. He held up a mirror to faiths ugly spots and demanded action not content leaving himself out of his own crosshairs.

5. In Stitches – David Bazan

There may be no other (or better) artist to have built a career on the subject of questioning god or losing faith than David Bazan who was the former leader of Christian band Pedro the Lion, Headphones, and currently a member of Overseas. I can’t think of a person more integral to helping me realize that skepticism is the way more than this dude with his gravelly voice and way with words.

These are a handful of songs that have helped shape who I am, not only as a non-believer, but a person who hasn’t stopped striving to better himself despite the lack of heaven to serve as a carrot dangling ahead. I’m very much interested in any music that may have served you for the better in regards to faith or lack thereof. Please share in the comments.


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  1. January 24, 2014 at 12:45 pm

    I love this! Welcome to the Lab!

  2. January 24, 2014 at 1:14 pm

    Yay! Derek Webb was integral for me losing my faith as well – and you’re the one who introduced me to him. 🙂

  3. January 24, 2014 at 4:55 pm

    I empathize a bit with the ways Christian musicians gave me room to lose my faith. I listened to—and still listen to—Michael Knott, Michael Roe, Gene Eugene, and other Christian artists who didn’t sugarcoat things. Those artists and their compadres felt more “authentic” to me, and authenticity is very important when you’re trying to be a Christian. Unfortunately for my faith, that authenticity opened enough ideas for me to branch out further and further until my faith was unrecognizable and… gone.

    In the tail end of my loss of faith, David Bazan’s “Hard to Be” was one of the finishing touches. It was so honest, personal, and took on theological ideas as well as cultural ones and brought them together in an astoundingly concise manner.

  4. January 24, 2014 at 6:21 pm

    Thanks for the feedback everybody!

    Jeffrey, I’ll definitely check out some of their work. I’ve still got a soft spot for religious artists who aren’t afraid of touchier subjects too.

  5. January 28, 2014 at 5:47 pm

    My first moment of thinking “I don’t believe in God anymore” happened while listening to the Amy Grant song “Ask Me,” in which she describes a child being sexually abused and asks “Where did he go in the middle of her shame?” I did not find Amy’s answer satisfactory. (Not a great song, either.)

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