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Old 11-07-2019, 11:46 AM
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Overtly religious Top 40 hits.


Listening to Ocean's Put Your Hand in the Hand and contemplating the lines:

My mama taught me how to pray before I reached the age of seven.
She said: There'll come a time when there'll probably be room in heaven.

And thinking what a terrible thing to tell a 5 year old, "You're gonna die so you better pray somebody didn't pay their heavenly rent so there's some heavenly room to let."

Anyway, that's not what this thread is about. There are a lot of Top 40 songs that are vaguely, sorta spiritual and if a choir sang it, it wouldn't be out of place in a church. A lot of love songs that fit this definition. But I'm talking about no-doubt-about-it, this song is most definitely about religion. Not only is it about religion but if you heard it in your place of worship sung by your religion's version of a televangelist, no one would bat an eye. So Joan Osborn's What if God Was One of Us probably wouldn't count.

I can think of only one more song off the top of my head and that's Norman Greenbaum's Spirit In The Sky. I'm sure there are more, I just cant think of them. I hear Kanye West is starting up a church based on his latest album but I can't say I've heard any singles off of it. Yet. So, any others out there?
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Old 11-07-2019, 11:51 AM
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"My Sweet Lord," by George Harrison.
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Old 11-07-2019, 11:52 AM
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I have heard John Lennon's "Imagine" in a church. A Mennonite church, of all places. I don't remember if they changed the "and no religion too" line or not.

My grandma, who is ex-Amish, had never known the song before she'd heard it in church and thought it was the most beautiful thing. Bless her.
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Old 11-07-2019, 11:56 AM
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Debbie Boone says the "You" in "You Light Up My Life" is God.
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Old 11-07-2019, 12:01 PM
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nm

Last edited by Hampshire; 11-07-2019 at 12:02 PM.
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Old 11-07-2019, 12:01 PM
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Originally Posted by terentii View Post
Debbie Boone says the "You" in "You Light Up My Life" is God.
I did make a whole paragraph about vague love songs not counting.
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Old 11-07-2019, 12:02 PM
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Spirit in the Sky by Norman Greenbaum
Mentioned in the OP.
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Old 11-07-2019, 12:05 PM
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"Shine" Collective Soul came to mind right away.

ETA: And after thinking about it for a bit, Kanye's "Jesus Walks" would fit this, too.

Last edited by The wind of my soul; 11-07-2019 at 12:07 PM.
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Old 11-07-2019, 12:08 PM
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Morning Has Broken, Cat Stevens
Peace Train, Cat Stevens
Put Your Hand In The Hand, Ocean (#2)

Last edited by Chefguy; 11-07-2019 at 12:11 PM.
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Old 11-07-2019, 12:13 PM
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Morning Has Broken, Cat Stevens
Peace Train, Cat Stevens

Aw crap, the board is dragging. I tried to edit out Hand in the Hand, but ended up reposting.

Last edited by Chefguy; 11-07-2019 at 12:14 PM.
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Old 11-07-2019, 12:13 PM
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Day By Day from Godspell peaked at #14.
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Old 11-07-2019, 12:14 PM
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Stryper's high water mark was "Honestly" which peaked at #23 on the Hot 100 January 30, 1988.
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Old 11-07-2019, 12:15 PM
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"I Can Only Imagine" made it to #5 on Adult Contemporary and #27 on Top 40.

"Mary Did You Know" was #26 in the Hot 100.

I am sure there are some from Christian Music that made it in the Top 40, but I don't pay that much attention to it.
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Old 11-07-2019, 12:16 PM
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King's X and Creed had some song that would fit. I seem to recall there was a Christian metal band, but Lord if I know who they were.

Insert Hank Hill quote here.
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Old 11-07-2019, 12:18 PM
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"Dominique" by The Singing Nun(Jeannine Deckers)
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Old 11-07-2019, 12:19 PM
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Mr Mister - Kyrie Eleison

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=belrNpqqA2g

Don't know if it was top 40, but I heard it on the radio a lot when I was in high school.
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Old 11-07-2019, 12:20 PM
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Is "Dust In The Wind" overtly religious? Or just philosophical? I know that Kansas had quite a few songs that could considered spiritual or Christian, but they weren't usually beat-you-over-the-head obvious about it.
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Old 11-07-2019, 12:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Gatopescado View Post
I seem to recall there was a Christian metal band, but Lord if I know who they were.
Stryper, mentioned by DCnDC.
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Old 11-07-2019, 12:23 PM
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"The Lord's Prayer" by Sister Janet Mead hit #4 on the Billboard chart in April of 1974.
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Old 11-07-2019, 12:23 PM
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Boney M, Rivers of Babyon

U2, Until the end of the world (it's about Judas)
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Old 11-07-2019, 12:24 PM
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How about "From a Distance" as performed by Bette Midler, which peaked at #2 on the US Hot 100 and #1 on the US Adult Contemporary charts. (Written by Julie Gold; first recorded by Nancy Griffith.)
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Old 11-07-2019, 12:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Horatius View Post
Mr Mister - Kyrie Eleison

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=belrNpqqA2g

Don't know if it was top 40, but I heard it on the radio a lot when I was in high school.
Not just Top #40, but a strong #1 on the Hot 100 Singles Chart in the U.S.

The Doobie Brothers' cover of "Jesus is Just All Right" hit #35.

The Byrds' 1965 #1 hit "Turn! Turn! Turn!" is essentially Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 set to music excepting the repeated title refrain.
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Old 11-07-2019, 12:26 PM
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He - The McGuire Sisters

I Believe - Pat Boone

Yeah, I'm old.
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Old 11-07-2019, 12:26 PM
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Elvis' "How Great Thou Art" album hit #18 on the Top Pop chart in 1966.

Last edited by Czarcasm; 11-07-2019 at 12:27 PM.
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Old 11-07-2019, 12:27 PM
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What about "Turn! Turn! Turn!" as made popular by The Byrds? It hit #1 and it's basically a recitation of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.

For what it's worth, the Wikipedia article on this song says:
Quote:
The song is notable for being one of a few instances in popular music in which a large portion of the Bible is set to music, other examples being the Melodians' "Rivers of Babylon", Sister Janet Mead's "The Lord's Prayer", U2's "40", Sinead O'Connor's "Psalm 33" and Cliff Richard's "The Millennium Prayer".
Edit: ninja'd by damn near everyone as I looked up the song and answered an email

Last edited by ZipperJJ; 11-07-2019 at 12:28 PM.
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Old 11-07-2019, 12:42 PM
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"One Toke Over The Line(Sweet Jesus)"-A modern spiritual.


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Old 11-07-2019, 12:43 PM
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Devil Went Down to Georgia - Charlie Daniels Band

There are some churches where this wouldn't be out of place.
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Old 11-07-2019, 12:44 PM
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Yeah, Right. Alone With Murray Head's Superstar.

Last edited by Annie-Xmas; 11-07-2019 at 12:46 PM.
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Old 11-07-2019, 12:47 PM
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I got beat by pretty much everyone on my two faves (Turn! Turn! Turn! and Rivers of Babylon) so I'll go with Amazing Grace by Judy Collins.

As a bonus, Gaudete was a UK hit by Steeleye Span - religious and sung in Latin - how 'bout that?

j
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Old 11-07-2019, 12:56 PM
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Lauren Daigle's You Say hit #29 on the Billboard Hot 100 after being on the Christian charts for over a year. If you listen casually and are unaware of her career as a Christian artist, it can sound like a love song. The chorus is that way.
Quote:
Originally Posted by You Say
You say I am loved when I can't feel a thing
You say I am strong when I think I am weak
And you say I am held when I am falling short
And when I don't belong, oh You say I am Yours
And I believe (I)
Oh I believe (I)
What You say of me (I)
I believe
The final short verse makes it explicit that it's addressed to God, but it would be easy to miss.
Quote:
Originally Posted by You Say
Taking all I have and now I'm laying it at Your feet
You have every failure, God, You have every victory
Ooh oh
So it's a "no doubt about, this song is about God" song IF the listener hears every word, but I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of listeners on secular radio just hear it as a love song.
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Old 11-07-2019, 01:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Annie-Xmas View Post
Day By Day from Godspell peaked at #14.
I came in to mention this. Although not from a Bible verse, it is apparently based on a 13th century prayer by the bishop St. Richard of Chichester, and included in more recent hymnals. The Wikipedia article says it hit #13 on the Billboard Hot 100.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Day_by_Day_(Godspell_song)


My complaint about the song, which I've heard sung in church countless times since Godspell unleashed it on the world, is that unrehearsed amateurs don't know how or when to end the thing, so it sort of peters out as people drop out of singing the endless refrain.
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Old 11-07-2019, 01:09 PM
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Not just Top #40, but a strong #1 on the Hot 100 Singles Chart in the U.S.

The Doobie Brothers' cover of "Jesus is Just All Right" hit #35.

The Byrds' 1965 #1 hit "Turn! Turn! Turn!" is essentially Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 set to music excepting the repeated title refrain.
No wonder this song never scanned right. It always sounded to me as if they were trying to cram more words than fit into the melody.
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Old 11-07-2019, 01:10 PM
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I've always considered Toy Matinee's "Last Plane Out" to be borderline in this regard:

Greetings from Sodom, how we wish you were here
The weather's getting warmer now that the trees are all cleared
No time for a conscience, and we recognize no crime,
Yeah, we got dogs and Valvoline (!), it's a pretty damn good time.


Although, in the third verse, it seems to reverse course a bit:

Someone said the Big Man may be joining us soon,
But I never was the type to hang with the Harbingers of Doom.


YMMV.
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Old 11-07-2019, 01:14 PM
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I think some of the songs from Jesus Christ Superstar hit the charts.
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Old 11-07-2019, 01:16 PM
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I thought Spirit in the Sky was mocking religion?

Is this Reverse Poe's Law?
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Old 11-07-2019, 01:18 PM
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How about Superstar from the musical Jesus Christ, Superstar? It reached #14 on the Billboard singles chart in 1969.
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Old 11-07-2019, 01:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SanVito View Post

U2, Until the end of the world (it's about Judas)
I was going to mention their song 40, which is Psalm 40 set to music, but I saw that it only ever was once released as a single, in August of 1983 in Germany, the live version from "Under A Blood Red Sky" which was recorded at Rockpalast at the Loreley which was U2's big breakthrough concert in Germany and elsewhere (Rockpalast used to be broadcast on TV in many parts of Europe).
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Old 11-07-2019, 01:20 PM
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There are probably a lot of Christmas songs that qualify. Can we just take them as read?
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Old 11-07-2019, 02:12 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DCnDC View Post
Stryper's high water mark was "Honestly" which peaked at #23 on the Hot 100 January 30, 1988.
Stryper was/is definitely a Christian band, but is that particular song overtly, can't-miss-it religious enough for the OP's criteria?

There have been other Christian bands to break into the mainstream top 40 (Jars of Clay, Sixpence None the Richer). But are their biggest hits "overtly religious" enough?
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Old 11-07-2019, 02:19 PM
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I thought Spirit in the Sky was mocking religion?

Is this Reverse Poe's Law?
Greenbaum wrote it mockingly but it has been embraced by Christians. Sorta like Blur's Song 2 being a parody of radio friendly grunge and then. . . you know the rest.
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Old 11-07-2019, 02:24 PM
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Originally Posted by kenobi 65 View Post
"My Sweet Lord," by George Harrison.
In the Christian school I attended in the seventies, we had an assembly about the Devil's music and that song was specifically called out because of the names of "heathen gods" being sung in the background.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Horatius View Post
Mr Mister - Kyrie Eleison
I never had the least idea what they were saying in that song, and wouldn't have been any wiser if I had. Not until the Internet came along did I finally get it.
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Old 11-07-2019, 02:38 PM
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I just remembered - I don't think you'll hear it in a church (though you may well hear stuff of a similar bent), but the spectacularly awful Deck of Cards* is clearly, unambiguously religious.

Quote:
T. Texas Tyler's rendition went to number 2 on the country charts in 1948.......

.......The highest-charting version was recorded in 1959 by future game show host Wink Martindale, and was performed on The Ed Sullivan Show. Martindale's rendition (titled "Deck of Cards") went to No. 7 on the Billboard charts and number 11 on the country charts in 1959.....
And, unfortunately for me:

Quote:
The song was also a UK No. 13 hit in October 1973 for the entertainer Max Bygraves.
j

* - Links to recordings omitted due to basic human decency
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Old 11-07-2019, 03:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Dung Beetle View Post
In the Christian school I attended in the seventies, we had an assembly about the Devil's music and that song was specifically called out because of the names of "heathen gods" being sung in the background.

I never had the least idea what they were saying in that song, and wouldn't have been any wiser if I had. Not until the Internet came along did I finally get it.
They should have played the Mister Ed theme backwards. It's been claimed it contains "Someone sang this song for Satan."

It boggles the mind that someone actually took the time to determine this, and that they chose this song to listen to.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6GAbc5uQXJo
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Last edited by terentii; 11-07-2019 at 03:30 PM.
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Old 11-07-2019, 03:34 PM
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Jesus, Take the Wheel

Quote:
Originally Posted by Biggirl View Post
Greenbaum wrote it mockingly but it has been embraced by Christians. Sorta like Blur's Song 2 being a parody of radio friendly grunge and then. . . you know the rest.
Do you have a cite? He didn't have any religious bent, but I thought it was more like trying to see if he could do it instead of a polemic.
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Old 11-07-2019, 03:41 PM
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So Joan Osborn's What if God Was One of Us probably wouldn't count.
I don't see why not. Seems to adequately show Hebrews 13:2 - "Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it." - in song form. I wouldn't be surprised if it was playing at a church function (aside from that our church doesn't play contemporary music).
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Old 11-07-2019, 03:52 PM
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I will also point out that U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" has some very strong Christian imagery. I guess one can say it's not overt, but when one of the verses goes: "I believe in the Kingdom Come, Then all the colours will bleed into one, Bleed into one, But yes, I'm still running. You broke the bonds, And you loosed the chains, Carried the cross of my shame, Oh my shame, you know I believe it" - sounds pretty overt to me.
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Old 11-07-2019, 03:54 PM
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I Write the Songs?
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Old 11-07-2019, 03:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ISiddiqui View Post
I don't see why not. Seems to adequately show Hebrews 13:2 - "Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it." - in song form. I wouldn't be surprised if it was playing at a church function (aside from that our church doesn't play contemporary music).
I don't know many churches that would be cool with saying God was a slob and just like regular people.
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Old 11-07-2019, 03:58 PM
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I don't know many churches that would be cool with saying God was a slob and just like regular people.
Most mainline Protestant churches would be completely fine saying what if God was this homeless person. I've heard many a sermon somewhat like it.

Heck, it was the song for the opening credits of Joan of Arcadia, which was a show that mostly Christians (and not just Progressive ones) watched.
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Old 11-07-2019, 04:13 PM
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The song might be controversial because it ponders "What if God was . . . . "

But it seems to explicitly assume that God exists.

So I think it qualifies for this thread.
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