Fugitives from Fundamentalism

The Musings of Adult Missionary Kids (MKs) & Former Born-Again Believers

Irreligious Song #1: Nine Inch Nails “Heresy”

Posted by Clamence/The Chaplain on September 21, 2010

Prior to the second half of my high school career, I had very simple, mainstream tastes in music. I mostly listened to Top 20 music, which ran the gamut from overproduced R & B and Rap, to repetitious and shimmery dance club tunes, to cheesy Hair Metal music. This meant I was listening to artists who many times did not even write the music or the lyrics they were singing. This type of music, produced and promoted to earn the biggest profits and appeal to the broadest base of adolescents, usually contained vacuous, uninspired and unoriginal lyrics about love relationships. Anything that did not have the slick shine of overproduction to its sound was noise, as far as I was concerned.

In my Junior year at boarding school, I roomed with a guy who had just returned from the U.S. Whereas my music collection consisted of artists like New Edition, Bobby Brown and Keith Sweat, his consisted of bands like Midnight Oil, R.E.M., and U2. Suddenly, I found myself listening to a lot of bands operating on a much deeper level than the artists with whom I had previously been enamored. Sure, some of them didn’t sound like they even knew how to hold a note or sing in tune, but their lyrics were carefully constructed and consisted of messages about equality, injustice, people vs. profits, and a whole slew of other social issues. I soon discovered that music stripped of slick production, with a purpose loftier than simply giving adolescents some tired old cliche of an emotion to dance to, was of greater value; this type of music was sincere, earthy and raw. My early college career coincided with the explosion of Alternative music, so my taste in music continued to head in that direction: towards artists interested in discovering new musical ways of expressing thoughts and emotions in ways unique to themselves. (At least, it was like this for the first wave of Alternative music; it soon became a parody of itself, sadly.)

Interestingly enough, although my friend loved socially-aware music, I am at a loss to explain why. I would hear him singing Midnight Oil lyrics about corporations that “have more rights than people,” but I knew he thought the sun shined right out of (the first) President Bush’s ass. This is just another one of those examples of the fissure I noticed between what Christians claim to profess and what they practice. It seems to be a uniquely American Evangelical phenomenon, due to the contradictory marriage made in hell between the Republican party and the Religious Right. But I digress…

When I left my Christian college mid-way through my education–as I began to question the nature of reality as it had been given to me by the Bible and my fellow Christians–I began to open my ears to music I had previously avoided out of fear of the supernatural. To put it simply, I was able to listen to heresy and sacrilege without worrying about lightning bolts from that super-pissed off Yahweh guy. In that spirit, I am beginning a new series of posts on songs that feature heresy, or otherwise promote a supernatural-free view of the world. I’ll try to get a wide variety of different styles of music represented, but I might need some help with that: if you have any suggestions, please shoot me an email.

Here is my first example of heresy in music. I’m sure it’s no surprise that Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails has a little bit of musical heresy to share with us. How to explain this song… It is not subtle. It is an angry song. It is a song you might want to sing along to after watching a protest by the folks from Westboro Baptist Church, or anytime you mistakenly stumble across the Fox News Channel. It’s primal and raw catharsis. Follow along with the lyrics beneath the video as Trent screams:

he sewed his eyes shut,
because he is afraid to see,
he tries to tell me,
what I put inside of me,
he’s got the answers,
to ease my curiosity,
he dreamed a God up,
and called it Christianity.

God is dead,
and no one cares,
if there is a hell,
I’ll see you there.

he flexed his muscles,
to keep his flock of sheep in line,
he made a virus,
that would kill off all the swine,
his perfect kingdom,
of killing, suffering and pain.
demands devotion,
atrocities done in his name.

God is dead,
and no one cares,
if there is a hell,
I’ll see you there,
your God is dead,
and no one cares,
if there is a hell,
I’ll see you there.

God is dead,
and no on cares,
if there is a hell,
I’ll see you there,
your God is dead,
and no one cares,
(drowning in his own hypocrisy)
if there is a hell,
I’ll see you there,
(burning with your God in humility)

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12 Responses to “Irreligious Song #1: Nine Inch Nails “Heresy””

  1. Ann said

    I’ll never forget the first time I heard NIN back in 1991. Pretty Hate Machine on cassette was the only album I listened to for a while on my car stereo. A painful process separating myself from my family when I faced the insanity of religion, Trent was there to put the experience into words and sound for me. I had just left home and moved in with a friend living in south FL. If I remember correctly, I introduced NIN to you back in 1994 around the time Downward Spiral was released. Yeah, never worried about lightening bolts from super-pissed Yahweh either.

    • Bob said

      No, only Pretty Hate Machine and Broken had been released at the time, but you’re right: you introduced me to Reznor’s stuff.

      • Ann said

        Nope, Downward Spiral was released right after I met you in 1994 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Downward_Spiral.

        • Bob said

          Does it suck to be wrong all the time? 🙂 I went to Messiah College in ’91/’92, ’92/’93, and was suspended for missing too many chapel services after the Fall of ’93. I was already living down South when the Downward Spiral was released. We met in the fall of ’93.

          • Ann said

            Bob, yes, but the album was released in March, a few months after I met you in October of 93. I realize I didn’t give the album to you, I wrote “I introduced NIN to you back in 1994 around the time Downward Spiral was released.” Not a matter of being right or wrong. Anyway, one of my favorite songs was Big Man with a Gun. Here’s what Trent has to say about it:

            The record was nearing completion. I had written those lyrics pretty quickly and I didn’t know if I was going to use them or not. To me, Downward Spiral builds to a certain degree of madness, then it changes. That would be the last stage of delirium. So the original point of ‘Big Man with a Gun’ was madness. But it was also making fun of the whole misogynistic gangsta-rap bullshit. […] I listen to a lot of it, and I enjoy it. But I could do without the degree of misogyny and hatred of women and abuse. Then, my song got misinterpreted as exactly that. It was probably a lack of being able to write. I’ve been taken out of context, and it’s ridiculous.

            • Bob said

              I also LOVE that “Big Man with a Gun” song. That is the song that a pro-censorship person asked a record executive to read the lyrics to aloud. The executive refused, and the pro-censorship person probably thought, “Score!” Here are the Muppets singing it:

  2. JN said

    I always like hearing Trent Reznor in interviews, but I never got into his music.

    I like the muppet video. This was the next one on the queue:

    Genius! I always wondered why Ernie couldn’t sleep…

    • Bob said

      Poor sheep.

    • Ann said

      For like a year when I was a kid, in 1992, this was my absolute favorite song. I had all the lyrics memorized (still do). Thought I was so bad when I would play this in the car stereo when I was with conservative friends. LOL! Still my favorite by Trent, although I know he has better songs. Nostalgia…

  3. i think this has to be my all time favorite NIN song, and this version is awesome…..

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