Recent publicity about Irish rock group U2’s Christian witness was remarkable largely because many of the UK’s bands have a decidedly different flavor.

For example, God’s Own Medicine, the new album by the British rock band, The Mission UK, begins with these words: “I still believe in God, but God no longer believes in me.” That Petrol Emotion, an Irish band, sings: “I’d rather be the devil than go creeping to the cross.” And solo artist Julian Cope, who strikes the pose of a man hanging on a cross in the middle of an automobile junkyard on the cover of his new album, Saint Julian, has an encounter with God in the title track and tries to turn the theological tables on him: “Your fall from grace, a god so far gone.”

What is going on here?

God has suddenly become a popular subject with rock musicians—among whom, it seems, he is largely unpopular. Songs abound that mock or question God and scoff at heaven, the Bible, sin, the Crucifixion, and believers.

Some—like Depeche Mode’s “Blasphemous Rumours,” a song about mothers who pray during times of heartbreaking crises—are blatantly profane; others, like Big Audio Dynamite’s “Drive Me Crazy,” contain more benign references to God. None, however, has captured the attention of audience, disc jockey, and media alike as XTC’s “Dear God.”

“Dear God” is an attempt by composer Andy Partridge, XTC vocalist and guitarist, to debunk the God of the Bible. Partridge calls it a “list of complaints” he had been wanting to write for years; when he finally did write it, he thought “it wasn’t sharp enough” and decided not to include ...

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