Religiously-Inspired Secular Music

There’s plenty of religious music out there, from classical to contemporary. In listening to the Grateful Dead recently, it occurred that there is a lot of music with religious themes even though it’s basically secular. For example their song “Estimated Prophet,” about a seer who comes to “California, preaching on the burning shore.” He laments that “You’ve all been asleep, you would not believe me,” but in the end “You will follow me and we will ride to glory.”

The song was written in the 70s, in the milieu of the Jesus People movement. Bob Weir, the author, has stated that he was inspired by wild-looking messianic types who would show up backstage. On the other hand, the lyrics are straightforward and are not mocking anyone.

The Dead may be the most successful band to have only one Top 40 hit. On the other side of that is Norman Greenbaum, a very Jewish guy who took gospel music and turned it into “Spirit in the Sky,” a one-hit wonder that still is making him money. Some people want it at their funeral, some find it heretical.

Question: For Christians, atheists, and other religious believers or non-believers: how do you feel about such music? Is it offensive in any way? Does it make you more or less likely to believe? Or is it just music?

R&I – FS


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