Wait, Bad Religion Is Putting Out a Christmas Album?

Categories: Covers
This week, everyone's favorite non-believing punk band, Bad Religion, previewed music from its latest record, Christmas Songs. That's right, ladies and gents: the band called Bad Religion, whose logo is a cross with a red line though it, has made an album of covers of songs that are traditionally and commonly associated with Jesus Christ's "birthday." Kudos should go to the punk legends for trying to think outside the box with this one, but anyone with even the vaguest idea of who this band is can recognize that this is going to be, at the very least, a really fucking strange record.

The project makes a little more sense when you find out that 20 percent of the proceeds from sales of Christmas Songs will go to SNAP: the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests. But then you look at the track listing and confusion returns:

1. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
2. O Come All Ye Faithful
3. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
4. White Christmas
5. Little Drummer Boy
6. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
7. What Child is This?
8. Angels We Have Heard On High
9. American Jesus (Andy Wallace Mix)

So, Bad Religion isn't just covering Christmas songs -- six out of the nine tracks here are actual hymns.

Brett Gurewitz, the band's guitarist, has tried to explain the motivation behind recording such unexpected songs with the following statement: "What this album is indirectly stating is that this music, and thus the world, can be powerfully and beautifully stripped of God and religion. These are just really good songs and a historically non-religious band like Bad Religion can perform them with as much power and feeling as anyone."

Well, no, actually, that's not really true. Because when you take belief and faith out of religious music, it ceases to have the same power and feeling. That's why hymns are so goddamn boring for non-believers to listen to. If you don't believe in God, these songs mean almost nothing. Putting some power chords in there doesn't always amount to true power or feeling.

What's worse, from a fan perspective, is the fact that lyrics are usually such an important part of this band's music. Bad Religion fans want to be stimulated, challenged, and moved. Bad Religion fans are frequently atheists who believe that the Bible is a made-up book of propaganda and thought control. Why on earth would those fans want to listen to songs that have been used to spread and popularize religious doctrine for centuries? Just because you put guitars on a hymn and get a bunch of non-religious people to play them doesn't make the content and history of that music any different.

For some fans, there may be an initial, somewhat delicious novelty factor in atheists playing such hallowed Christian music. At Christmas, no less. But when it comes to the business of actually sitting down and listening to Bad Religion doing this, the concept gets tired quickly. Aside from anything else, try and picture someone sitting at home, picking which Bad Religion record to listen to that evening. Is it going to be Suffer, The Gray Race, or, uh, Christmas Songs?

So, while we appreciate that money is being raised for a worthwhile cause, and while we understand what Bad Religion was trying to do, this doesn't seem like project that could ever really make sense. Most punks don't want to listen to God music, even when Bad Religion is playing it. And hymns aren't stripped of their religious content just because Bad Religion is playing them. Perhaps an EP would've served the concept better than a full-length? Or perhaps Bad Religion should've just written an album dedicated to exposing Christmas fallacies, debunking mythology, and explaining about how Christmas was invented to essentially outshine a Pagan holiday. That would've been far more interesting to listen to.

-- @Raemondjjjj
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If any of you atheist had a pair you would stand up for what you believe in and not always compromise. I don't go to church because I do not believe in a religion, so why would I listen to a bunch of songs about praising a god if I am an atheist? Okay, so these are traditional American folk songs or whatever, but isn't that why we liked Bad Religion in the first place. Because we wanted to listen to something that would relieve our ears from hearing this mindless worship music full of out dated beliefs. Only give respect to what deserves respect.


As a pagan, I feel the need to make an point.  When you bring up the fact that Christmas was meant to take the place of a pagan holly day there is something you miss.  You say this as if it is some horrible thing, but the reality is as a pagan I'm fine with that.  When Chistianity was first making its way into Europe it wasn't so uptight about things and when they first (note: this is before Charlemagne) started doing something like witnessing they were open to the idea of embracing other traditions.  In this open atmosphere they found the yule celebration they decided to adopt it.  In many ways this makes this time of year easier.  If you want to bash Christians for having some pagan traditions I repsectfully request you not.  Now, if this is a matter of you decided any and all religions are just stupid and not rational, I'll look forward to reading your future mockery of my faith. 


I like Christmas carols and I can see the beauty in hymns. That's what music is. I'm an atheist, but I also like to connect with things I don't necessarily understand. Music is the perfect venue for that. You can go to midnight mass, hear the choir and be moved without having to believe. If you can feel another person's conviction in music, it's enough. The power is in the conviction, not the belief. 

And I also like different takes on classic songs.


I agree DocU.  I was raised Christian and I still love many bands that are anti-Christian.  I like a lot of bands and some of them do have anti-God or anti-cChristian lyrics, but I can move past that and enjoy their talents because I know they are real people putting their talents out there.  I don't think I can change someone's mind by writing some lyrics and putting them to song, and I don't think anyone else can do that to me.  I enjoy good music, and I am not going to put down someone for their beliefs.


I'm a Christian and a longtime Bad Religion fan. Just like I can appreciate their music and their lyrics even if I don't agree with everything, I think atheists can appreciate and enjoy this. Rigidity in any belief system (note the line above, "atheists believe . . .") limits our ability to be "stimulated" emotionally and intellectually. I connect with these songs on a level I'm certain the band didn't have in mind, but people who are not Christians can connect with them in a lot of other ways that have nothing to do with God. They also sound amazing. Bad Religion's musical interpretation on such traditional, well known songs is plenty of stimulation by itself. 


Rae - You not only missed the point of Xmas music, but you missed the entire point of the project in the first place. Greg and the band are remaining quite steadfast by taking songs that are seemingly incongruent with their humanist ethos and putting a punk rock spin on them. By actually listening to the lyrics, any person who chooses to actually use his or her brain can hear the myths that the Xtian church has created and can, with just a little bit of knowledge or research, see where they stole (borrowed/adapted/plagiarized) their ideas. If the music doesn't get you thinking, you are not using your brain properly.

For the record, I am an avowed atheist and a huge fan of the band who absolutely LOVES Xmas music. These songs were burned into my mind as a youth when I was forced to attend church and now, as an adult, I have the ability to listen to them with a critical ear, knowing that the songs do not hold the truth, but do hold an earworm that bores into my love of the holiday season.


Oh, Rae... would you like a nice new fedora for Christmas?  It's funny you point out how Bad Religion fans like to be stimulated, challenged, and moved... and then imply that they must share your unsophisticated interpretation of the meaning of Christmas songs.  Brett Gurewitz was right, these songs have plenty of significance outside of religion. They are a part of the American folk music tradition, and well-loved by plenty of people of diverse faiths and even, yes (prepare for your mind to be blown) atheists, including this one. You don't think this album makes sense? Maybe you have a point... what makes sense about an album of Christmas music released during the holiday season?  Imagine me trying to pick what Bad Religion album to listen to at a holiday party with a bunch of fun-loving punk rockers... you know what? "Christmas Songs" is definitely the one I would pick.  Would I pick it in July?  No, but that's not the point of a Christmas album, is it?  Lighten up a bit and realize that atheists don't have to be boxed in by their beliefs.  Religious people have that problem way more often than we do.

Leeanne Hansen
Leeanne Hansen

they have recorded several christmas songs over the years , so why not ? put them all out on a cd yay!

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