PUNK ROCK VS. ORGANIZED RELIGION
As the world becomes more and more diverse in its races, ethnicities and cultures there arise many different religions. Most of these religions have a strong following which almost inevitably calls for a communal meeting of other people from the same faith to discuss their common belief and gather other people to join with them. Such communes are generally regulary scheduled and even have national holidays associated with them. The faiths themselves are out to prove that their hierarchy is the only one truly extent in the world and that people who don't share their belief in a diety(ies) are wrong and will eventually face eternally long punishments. There also exist revolts againts some or all of these apparently "organized" religions one of which is, perhaps, the most prominent. 90's punk rock music is a stepping stone for a world-wide revolution against organized religion because the nonconformity of punk rock has been brought about by an individualism in spirituality and belief.
One member of a punk band from Santa Cruz, California wrote a passage in the sleeve of their most recent album about such a revolution and how it is more or less an individual quest. "I still believe that we can change the world but I am convinced that this battle will be won or lost on a more personal front depending on our ability to change and evolve as people; to experience our own inner-revolution. This might, in turn, affect those around us, the communities we live in and, ideally, the world," (Russ R. of Good Riddance, October 1997). Not only does this fraction of his text reflect the changes which need to happen, but it also goes against the gathering which is typical of organized religions to appropriately reach the stated goal. He goes on to state that, "The real revolution lies in questioning the once unquestionable [a hierarchy]. Blind acceptance of somebody else's status quo and the age-old idea that we can't make a difference will be our downfall if we let it."
It is particularly in the lyrics of punk songs that this revolution is born and as it reaches more and more people, the movement becomes stronger and more united. Leaders of this revolution include such punk bands as: Bad Religion, Pennywise, Good Riddance, Strung Out, Offspring, and Lagwagon.
Again, lyrics from each of these bands proves that this is a strong creation and enforces the belief that institutionalized religion is unnecessary and if one wants to have a belief in a hierarchy it should be an individual relationship. "In towering churches and holy temples they all conspired to tell me how to live my life. But no religion or new theism could ever provide proof to quench my mind," (Pennywise, Full Circle). This passage addresses the "recruitment" method some religious organizations use to gain new members in their chapter. Some such organizations will attempt to explain that if you do not live in a specific manner that you will not gain entry to a "heaven," or eternal bliss after you have passed.
One song in- particular blatantly addresses most religion, most that is except intrapersonal beliefs. "Hey do what you want but don't do it around me. Idleness and dissipation breed apathy. I sit on my ass all god-damned day, a misanthropic anthropoid with nothing to say what you must do all you can, break all the fucking rules and go to hell with superman and die like a champion. Hey, I don't know if the billions will survive, but i'll believe in god when one and one are five. My moniker is man and I'm rotten to the core, I'll tear down the buildings just to pass through the door," (Bad Religion, Suffer). This song also attacks the tactics that religions use to get people to join with them in a common belief. The line "do what you want, but don't do it around me," is saying that it's okay for people to believe whatever they choose, but when they push those beliefs on others is when those "others" have the right to be offended.
A seemingly large problem in the punk scene is the inability to actually see a godlike figure standing in front of oneself, as they write about it fairly often. "In the eyes of christ in the eyes of war in the grasp of a god unseen, why must we die?" (Strung Out, Another Day In Paradise). The quote most apparently asks why we, as humans, should die for a cause [war] and a diety [christ] who we cannot see or converse with. Another such quote is not quite so blunt, but nearly has the same message. "Hey mister can you tell me who you are. Two for one can you survive. One by one you stay alive. Do you think you really stand a chance? Pray to god for intervention, deities of your invention, don't you wanna know who deals the hands?" (Pennywise, s/t). The last line in the passage refers, again, to not being able to visibly see the man/woman [deity] who supposedly runs one's life and has it all planed out. To think that a higher being is playing your life like a card game, "don't you wanna know who deals the hands," is generally fought fairly strong in the 90's punk world.
Getting back to the individual beliefs, many punk bands and punk followers abide by the age-old saying, carpe diem. To live life now, and not worry about what has happened in the past or what will happen in the future (especially not to worry, or care for that matter, about one's judgement day or the apocalyptic end to the earth). "I'll start over and live every single day. Regrets and memories, no remorse, no apologies, no reason for me to despair. No future at all, ask if I care. I got time on my side, 24 hours in my life, can't hang on to what's in my past, full sped ahead, hard and fast." (Pennywise, About Time). Although not directly relating to religion itself this stanza does directly correlate to the lifestyle that many of these anti-organized religious bands live.
As music is a valid form of both art and expression, punk rock does hold some solid ground. Some may argue that since punk is not a mainstream style of music and is not seen on MTV or heard that much on the radio, that it can not hold ground because not a majority of people listen to it. On the contrary even the marketing of punk rock is done in an anti religios manner. That is, it is not placed on the radio and on MTV on purpose. If it were, people who didn't really appreciate the music for what it's worth would be listening to it. The scene would gain rather un-faithful followers just because they may have seen their friends doing the same. Consequently the people who do listen to the music now have picked it up on their own (individuals). The similarities are astounding to some of the tactics used by religions to draw people into their "scene." They make themselves as visible as possible and hope to gain interest just because of that fact.
In conclusion it would be a mistake to say that there is no current revolution in the punk scene against all form's of institutionalized religion, and it would be an even bigger mistake to say that if there is one, it holds no ground. One cannot speak for the bandmates them selves, but it becomes clear through both the lyrics and other published texts that they do not condone organized religion, but have not real animosity towards personal belief or spirituality.
1. BAND NAME, ALBUM TITLE, SONG TITLE, DATE.
1. GOOD RIDDANCE, BALLADS FROM THE REVOLUTION, NO SONG, COPYRIGHT 1997.
2. PENNYWISE, PENNYWISE, LIVING FOR TODAY, COPYRIGHT 1989.
3. PENNYWISE, ABOUT TIME, EVERY SINGLE DAY, COPYRIGHT 1995.
4. PENNYWISE, FULL CIRCLE, GET A LIFE, COPYRIGHT 1997.
5. BAD RELIGION, SUFFER, DO WHAT YOU WANT, COPYRIGHT 1988.
6. STRUNG OUT, ANOTHER DAY IN PARADISE, POPULATION CONTROL, COPYRIGHT 1996.