Hit Song Gets Censored For Lyric About Not Believing in God June 19, 2010

Hit Song Gets Censored For Lyric About Not Believing in God

Check out the first few lines in the hit song “Breakeven” by the band The Script:

I’m still alive but I’m barely breathin’
Just prayed to a god that I don’t believe in
‘Cause I got time while she got freedom
‘Cause when a heart breaks, no, it don’t break even

Catchy. Cute. You get the gist of the song. The guy is going through a breakup and he’s having a hard time getting over the girl.

A few radio stations, however, have decided to use a different version of the song…

These are the first few lines of their version:

I’m still alive but I’m barely breathin’
But no wise words gonna stop the bleedin’
‘Cause I got time while she got freedom
‘Cause when a heart breaks, no, it don’t break even

Umm… what happened to the line about “a god you don’t believe in”?

Apparently it’s too blasphemous to play on air.

This woman is really mad about it:

Are you fucking kidding me? I mean, seriously? And what really gets me is that when the song first came out, it had the correct lyrics and then all of a sudden, I’m singing along in the car and look like an even bigger douche than before singing the wrong words. I mean right words. So I can only imagine that some self-righteous asshole (or a few of them) took to the phones and complained about it. What the hell is there to complain about? Who’s religiosity did that phrase offend? He didn’t say that he doesn’t believe in your God and even if he did, who gives a shit? Are you that insecure in your own beliefs that you feel the need for others to not have their own perceptions or that you have to fuck with song lyrics in a damn love pop rock ballad? Get a fucking life.

I like her. She seems pleasant.

I’m not sure if the band allowed this change or not — it’s possible that the “radio version” of the song was rewritten this way to make it more mainstream and marketable.

Still, it seems absurd that the band can’t even mention not believing in god without offending someone’s sensibilities.

I can’t find a copy of the revised radio version anywhere, but if you can get one, please let me know.

(Thanks to Claire for the link!)

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  • Mike

    Everybody knows all the best bands are associated with Satan. Or at least the best ones make you think. I must say the subversive message of rock and roll was influential on me growing up. Similar messages from Muse, John Lennon, and Rush manage to make it on the air all the time.

    But make no mistake, this song was censored because songs really matter.

  • MaleficVTwin

    Still, it seems absurd that the band can’t even mention not believing in god without offending someone’s sensibilities.

    Does it? Putting up billboards just saying that we exist seems to offend the masses.

  • Kim

    Actually, I’ve heard versions of “Imagine” on the air where an entire verse is edited out. Because we don’t want to imagine a world with no religion! Scandal! *eyeroll*

  • Vivian

    Well geez, every religion has a god they don’t believe in.

  • Aegis

    They did something similar with the Stones, back in the day. I think it was Letterman, but I could be wrong – their song Let’s Spend The Night Together was to be rewritten as Let’s Spend Some Time Together, because the idea of casual sex was too much for the American public to handle.

    The Stones agreed to it, and then went and played the original lyrics, live on air. Got them banned from the States for years. Now, every gig they play in the US is sold out – hell, every gig they play *everywhere*.

    Just serves to illustrate whose example we’re following here…and another reason I think the Stones should be adopted as the atheist rights movement’s unofficial group.

    (Actually, the phrase ‘atheist rights’ is a worrying one to read over…while I’m in the UK and thus not subject to a lot of the crap that goes on against atheists in the US, it does strike me that gay people and atheists are two of the only remaining groups whose rights actually need to be campaigned for.)

    EDIT: Bloody good point, Vivian. I like it.

  • Huh. I’m familiar with the song from the radio and I don’t think they’ve edited it around here. I know that we’re not full on Bible Belt here in WV, but still, it’s a pretty religious area and I wouldn’t be surprised that it was changed.

    Gotta’ go with the author on this one (who appears to be a her rather than a him). Not cool at all.

  • phira

    I haven’t heard the edited version of this song, but that’s my favorite line of the song.

    I have noticed that the Usher/will.i.am song “OMG” was changed from “Oh My God” to “Oh My Gosh.” What?

  • CdAHumanist

    I did a little research and it sounds like this originated from WZYP in Huntsville, Alabama several months ago. Apparently they are owned by a company called Cumulus Broadcasting (http://www.cumulus.com/) who is the second largest radio broadcaster in the US (behind Clear Channel). From what I read, all Cumulus owned stations are playing the censored version. Perhaps a Cumulus boycott and anti-Cumulus media blitz is in order…..

    I wonder if the band is aware that this Broadcasting company has taken this liberty with their song and altered their original lyrics?

  • qwertyuiop

    Maybe that’s why they don’t play Slayer on the radio. 😀

  • Kim

    They need to win a Grammy just so they can go up there and say, “Cumulus told us we had to make sure to give God credit for this award or else they’d stop giving our music airtime, but since we do not, in fact, believe in God, we instead made a list of real people we want to thank…” Or, you know, go the Kathy Griffin route.

  • Claudia

    Actually, I’ve heard versions of “Imagine” on the air where an entire verse is edited out. Because we don’t want to imagine a world with no religion! Scandal! *eyeroll*

    I haven’t independently confirmed this, but in The God Delusion, Dawkins mentions that some stations in the US edited the line to “and ONE religion too” which just about makes your head explode.

  • CdAHumanist

    I just sent this email to WZYP’s program director, Steve Smith (steve.smith@cumulus.com).

    I’m wondering if you’re aware of the controversy that Cumulus and WZYP is generating over the censoring of “The Script’s” song “Breakeven”?


    As an atheist, I find your censorship of the song offensive and I would kindly request that you please restore the song to its originally written version.

    Thank you.”

  • I love this song and love that line and hate those radio stations. I am emanating anger at such nonsense.

  • matt

    “I’m not sure if the band allowed this change or not”

    The band doesn’t have to approve radio cuts, but if a line is replaced with something else they would not only have to approve it, but rerecord a version with the new line.

  • Richard

    John Lennon’s Imagine is on the Glee soundtrack Glee: The Music, Vol. 2 and appeared in the TV show with the entire first stanza missing (Imagine there’s no heaven / It’s easy if you try / No hell below us / Above us only sky / Imagine all the people / Living for today). I was very annoyed when I noticed his artistic expression had been tampered with. Apparently still too controversial for mainstream America.

  • Ulrich

    This guy is really mad about it:

    Um, I think that guy is a girl 😉

  • JD

    This alleged switcheroo needs confirmation before making any kind of a stink about it.

    If the line was replaced, I think the band would have to know about it. I don’t think stations have the right to replace parts of a song, I think most of them that might do this wouldn’t have the ability to make the switch and do a good job. But a simple hatchet is a lot easier, or wouldn’t be as prone to outright blunder.

  • @Ulrich — Whoops! Fixed 🙂 Thanks.

  • Miss Addict

    It played with the lines about not believing in god here in Aus.
    I remember because it was awesome to hear this and a couple of others around the same time it was released back in ’08 right when I stopped believing in god because i was really helpful among the 100’s that “thanked god”

    Sounds like its just some radio stations in the US taking offence.

  • Sea

    That line, “but no wise words gonna stop the bleeding,” comes from the second verse of the song. Did the editor just copy the line so that it’s in both the first and second verses? Sloppy.

  • ckitching

    I can’t imagine how they’d have to modify something like A Perfect Circle – Judith to sanitize it for the hypersensitive. I guess the solution would be to not play it at all.

  • Never really paid attention to the lyrics of that song when I heard it before today.

  • Dan

    And Christians are the oppressed ones, huh?

    It’s these little, subliminal things that are truly the most destructive. This makes me sick, and that radio station is nothing but a worthless bunch of gutless imbeciles, and if the band ok’d the censorship, they clearly don’t have the integrity to make them anything worth listening to.

  • Iggy

    Editing the song comes as something of a shock because AFN (the Armed Forces Network, overseas TV/Radio for US service members) plays the original version of the song. They play it fairly often as it’s one of the most requested songs over here. Now, you’d think that with the general perception of a US Service Member (any branch) as a 20-25 year old christian of a working-class background we’d be the first to edit it, but that’s not the case.

    Civvys state side need to get a damn life.

  • This girl is really mad about it:

    While the correcting stick is being passed around:

    She’s 29. She’s a woman, not a girl. I try to avoid prescriptivism, but this is actually somewhat disrespectful. Probably better just to say “person.”

  • @John — Fixed. Good point.

  • fritzy


    Yeah, I was gonna mention that song too. Of course that song came out 11 years ago. While there are a lot more open atheists than back then, I think the country is also a lot more polarized than it was then and xtians more vocal about being offended (particularly about things of which they have no reason to be offended.)

    Really, I don’t get this. Why is simply voicing one’s lack of religious belief so offensive to some people? Is your faith so unstable that it can be shaken simply by a stranger stating “I don’t believe in god?”

  • trixr4kids

    @Aegis “They did something similar with the Stones, back in the day. I think it was Letterman, but I could be wrong”

    It was the Ed Sullivan show, in 1967 (many years prior to Letterman’s show).

    Letterman’s show is taped in what’s now called the Ed Sullivan Theatre (actually Ed’s old studio), so that may be where you got the idea it happened on Letterman’s show.

  • This band is from Ireland. Perhaps they recorded an alternate version of the song so it would be, you know, legal for Irish radio stations to play it. Just guessing, but I’m not prepared to start villianizing a US radio station or media company without knowing the whole story.

  • ASD

    @Dan – it’s entirely likely that their manager signed the agreement. In fact, it’s likely that the band doesn’t even know about it. (Well, they will now…) They may have also done it on the manager’s advice, to keep the sales of the album up – the same reason why many artists release ‘clean’ (swearing silenced out, etc.) versions of songs for radio – people will still buy the album, but they are keeping their song out on the radio to get the publicity.

    With that being said, they’ll probably sell more albums if they leave the line in. There are so many bands that have at some point relied on controversy to sell an album, and it generally has worked wonders.

  • I love this song! (the original…)

  • Jake

    I thought something like that had happened, but had never paid enough attention to the song to really notice.

    I did notice the part about not believing in god, so the next couple of times the song came on, my ears would perk up, listening for that line. But then I stopped noticing it.

    I just figured I was missing it. The song wasn’t exactly one of my favorites, so I never listen closely enough to it to really notice before now.

    Oh, and if anyone cares, I’m in northwest Florida. Practically lower Alabama. So, I’m not sure if that has anything to do with it……

  • Alice

    Ugh, I despise that song. Sure, the English language, just delibrately butcher it up any way you feel like. That line is the only interesting bit of the whole song! If anything the grammatical train wreck should have been replaced!

  • Okay, first, I have to admit I have a bias here. A few weeks ago I drove five hours round-trip to see a one-hour Script show. I love The Script.

    But I want to make the point that Dan (the vocalist) wouldn’t have had to re-record at all. The line “Cause no wise words gonna stop the bleeding” already appears with the same melody elsewhere in the song. All it would take is a good audio editor to swap it around. You may need the original tracks, but I’m not sure.

    When I saw The Script in Charlotte last month, the did perform the song with the original “Just prayed to a god that I don’t believe in” line.

  • evilspud

    I like the fact that in times of crisis, I read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and pray to Willy Wonka to hasten the return of his great glass elevator.

    But it’s a cry of desperation and hopelessness that I try to put faith in something I know is ludicrous.

  • Claudia

    @Paul, am I misunderstanding you or are you saying that in Ireland its actually illegal to express nonbelief on the radio? I know that Ireland passed that ridiculous blasphemy law, but I didn’t think they had gone the full Saudi Arabia.

  • Amy

    Censoring/editing songs for the radio always seems ridiculous to me, because you may hear a song you like and then the version you buy is entirely different!

    And all that bleeping or blanking out of supposed profanity ruins songs anyway, let alone swapping out entire lines.

  • rupi capra

    Actually the Rolling Stones did censure themselves. It was the Doors who got in trouble with Ed. {With Light My Fire}

  • Toni

    America cracks me up. The Christians are getting equal censorship in this example, though: http://theconservativenation.com/2009/04/19/a-song-some-radio-stations-are-banning/ …which is rather odd because come Christmas season, we’ll be inundated with millions of stations blasting “Oh, Holy Night.” :l

  • Mike

    A song like Imagine from John Lennon is a lot less threatening than The Script Song. Why? Christians are a lot less afraid of atheists than their own insecurity of what they believe. For someone to say that they pray but know that no god exists to hear is the worst thing they can hear in a song.

  • Carlie

    Given some of the stuff that does play on the radio, this is what they censor? sheesh.

  • Harry

    I guess Theatre of Tragedy’s – And when He falleth wouldn’t fly there too, then 😉
    Sadly, I’ve forgotten which movie they’ve taken the conversation at the end from…

  • Steini

    Only this version of the song is played in Denmark, never heard the other version

  • Joshua White

    @ Toni

    Check scopes. I have been having a discussion with my Dad about that song. In that case it overblown.


  • Allison Vieira

    Why is it always OK for mainstream songs to INCLUDE reference to a god, but not OK for there to be reference to NO god? When I lived in military housing, someone put out a sign at Christmas that said “Jesus is the reason for the season” and I complained to the management as we lived on GOVERNMENT PROPERTY. As an atheist, If found the rather giant banner to be offensive. Not only was nothing done, after that I truly felt targeted by management. So the jist is that I have no right to be offended by the neverending onslaught ove god this or god that but the religous right does get to be offended by itty bitty references of non-belief.

  • Kelli

    This really upset me when I found out. I’m a Chrisitan and I LOVE this song. He’s not so much talking about not believing in a God as he is the lengths he’ll go to to get this girl back. Everyone can admit to doing something ‘drastic’ in a time of need and praying just happens to be his.
    The fact that people are upset about this is stupid. They need to stop looking at everything so literally cause we all know they don’t take their Bible literally. Ug.

  • Amy

    This is old news to me. I’m friends with a local radio DJ here in Gadsden, AL and we had a similar problem with this song. Someone called in to complain about the same line and the radio station censored the word “god” just to hush them up. However, shortly there after, they received complaints that the song was being censored. So, one weekday morning they had a vote. For 45 seconds callers were allowed to call in and just say “yes” or “no” as to whether it should be censored or not. In the end, the original version won out. What made me laugh the most is that the people here were choosing to censor a song that went without censorship in Ireland…

  • Corvin

    Aegis: The fiasco with the Stones you are referring to was on The Ed Sullivan Show way back in the 60’s.

    Now what I’d like to know is did the band approve the lyric change? Some of you mention the lyrics of “Imagine” getting changed to be more mainstream friendly, and it’s true however this was not of Mr. Lennon’s doing. Some radio stations took it upon themselves to make the changes and this caused a lot of hoopla back in the 80’s. Mr. Lennon was quite vocal about the stations doing this and was adamantly opposed to it, and there are no official recordings with the changed lyrics. Lennon absolutely refused the record company’s request to change the lyrics and released it as was written and recorded.

    So my point is, unless the band was made well aware of the consequences of getting air-play in certain markets with the “controversial” lyrics they should be consulting attorneys and investigating the offending radio stations.

    Otherwise, they were indeed well aware of the consequences and had pre-recorded two versions of the song, in which case this whole thread of discussion is completely moot because at that point the band ceases to quit caring about their own musical dignity and opted to heed the advice of their marketing consultants. Which in turn, of course, invalidates any controversy because the band has shown themselves as phony hucksters making a feeble attempt to stir up a bees nest just to turn a buck. And so far it seems to be working. Dupes!

    For me, personally, this article was my first exposure of this band. I’ve already forgotten their name. I made it approximately five or six(?) seconds into the song, just barely enough time to hear the second “controversial” line before I hit the pause because by then I had already determined this band to be yet another blatantly generic, mainstream friendly, low brow sampling of offensively mundane and meaningless sound waves. So I can see why this band is relying on “controversy”. They certainly can’t rely on talent.

  • TychaBrahe

    @rupi – Let’s say The Stones went along with it. Sullivan insisted. If you watch the clip, Jagger is CLEARLY not happy about the change. Check out the eyeroll at 0:49.


  • Neon Genesis

    So it’s ok to show the couple having sex in a music video but it’s not ok to sing about not believing in God? And radio stations should know that the more controversial your song is, the more popular it’ll become.

  • I don’t agree with the censorship, needless to say, but am I the only one who doesn’t like the original version of the line?

    Just prayed to a god that I don’t believe in

    Seems like they’re saying “No atheists in foxholes.” The singer doesn’t believe in a god, but he’s so desperate that he chooses to pray to one because of his broken heart. I’m assuming he’s praying to get his girlfriend back. This just strikes me as wishy-wishy and lame. It lends credence to the false assertion that all atheists will pray once they find themselves in dire straits, which is exactly the wrong message.

    It also doesn’t make much logical sense. I’ve never prayed, so maybe I’m missing something important, but how can one pray if one doesn’t believe? You could mouth the words, I suppose, but it’s not prayer unless you honestly believe you’re talking to a deity.

  • I agree with Corvin.

    No way a radio station is going to change lyrics. It would be illegal and leave them open to massive lawsuits.

    So don’t blame the radio staions… blame the band that kowtowed to religious pressure groups. They prostituted their talent to make it more palatable to the theists instead of standing by principle.

    Remember that if you ever consider buying that groups recordings. Fuck ’em.

  • Jenni

    I first heard that song and the line stuck out right away. You see, I do believe in God and thought to myself “how interesting… this guy doesn’t believe in God but he has no where else to go so he’s willing to give God a try.”

    I wasn’t offended, most of us that believe in God at some point prayed to Him before we believed. I breaks my heart that this can’t be played as it was intended and the honest lyrics (real feelings of the author) can’t be heard.

  • Dan W

    Odd. Every version I’ve heard of this song on the radio has been the original version, with the line “Just prayed to a god that I don’t believe in” in it un-changed. It actually surprised me to hear a song with that line played on major radio stations in my area. IMO it’s not a really great song, but it’s not bad. Aside from that one line, it’s a rather typical post-breakup song.

    It always annoys me when they edit out swear words or some other lines from a song when they play it on the radio.

  • This is great for The Script. Censor away, I say. Nothing like a bit of prudishness from misguided would-be-protectors-of-common-morality to send the sales of of the song stratospheric and to boost the listenership of the band.

    And while they are at it, they might take another listen to the song “If You See Kay” on the same album.. 🙂

  • I heard this song for the first time driving home from my UU church on a Sunday. That phrase in the song made me smile. 🙂

    Bunches of asshats. I hate it when honest, non offensive things get censored.

  • Silent Service


    AFN is not allowed by law to edit an artists music or alter/sensor content. It’s a huge no-no. All top 40 songs are played as is during an age apropriate time frame. Even the local DJs can’t block a top 40 song form being played on AFN.

    Source: My wife worked for Armed Forces Radio and Television Network.

  • Kyle

    This doesn’t hold a candle to the censoring of the MIA song Paper Planes where they changed the gun shot SOUNDEFFECTS to lasers. Of course, it completely ruins the point of the song.

    This is still egregious.

  • Guy Allen

    I guess the Christians didn’t think that maybe, just maybe, he was praying to Allah?

    All kidding aside, the band performed on The Today Show and did not censor themselves. There was a 7-second delay, though, so local affiliates could mute the feed whilst they flagellated themselves.

    I made that last part up.

  • It says a lot about the strength of a person’s convictions when they can’t even withstand hearing a lyric they disagree with. What happens when they hear an argument they disagree with?

  • muggle

    No, Anna, you’re not. I didn’t like it either. I have prayed. And I really don’t get it either. Sounds the same way to me. Rather makes me think it’s doing the opposite of endorsing Atheism. When I first read the line, I thought it was a dig at nonbelief. You’ll pray when you’re a desperate enough.

    Let’s be fair. I can think of at least one example where it’s been the other way around.

    So clap your hands and stomp your feet
    and shake those tambourines
    Lift your voices to the sky
    tell me what you see.

    From Mac Davis’:

    So clap your hands and stomp your feet
    And shake your tambourine
    Lift your voices to the sky
    God loves you when you sing

    Okay, I know it’s a remake rather than the radio doing it but still…

    And, please, lots of anti-God songs are played all the time. I’m surprised about the claims of “Imagine” because for all the thousands of times I’ve heard it played by now, I’ve never once heard it bastardized. I always find it amusing that Christians love that song too but then again it doesn’t say there is no god, just says imagine… (Thank you, “WKRP in Cincinatti” for that interpretation.)

    Maybe it’s the part of the country I’m from but Godsmack, Offspring, Cake (for beginners, I’m not going to sit here and try to list all the irreligious hits I can come up with) all get their irreligious songs played with no warping thereof.

  • Cheryl

    Well it’s confirmed that here in the cumulus radio area of my world (north carolina) they edit that line out. Don’t you just love freedom of speech? Being in the bible belt has always been a struggle for me, because it is so easy to claim and rejoice your beliefs in God but shamed if you don’t. Either way I think that if we (the public) have to hear songs with lyrics about believing in God than by all means shouldn’t we have the right to hear songs in non belief??? Just a thought…

  • Paula

    I have heard the song many times unedited, until Yesterday, when the line from teh second verse was dubbed over the prayer line. So, at least one WV radio station is editing it.

  • galadrist

    “I just prayed to a god that I don’t believe in.”

    So why does that mean he’s an atheist? It could mean he just prayed to Zeus or Mars. He could be a Christian who just prayed to the Flying Spaghetti Monster or Buddha or Mohammed (strtict Christians often think of such figures as false gods).

  • He could be a Christian who just prayed to the Flying Spaghetti Monster or Buddha or Mohammed.

    Ehem. Muslims don’t pray to Mohammed. They pray to God (which is not Mohammed). Just correcting ^_^

  • jamie

    I don’t get the fuss, he’s just saying that even though he personally doesn’t believe in God, he’s still willing to try praying to get his ex back. I’m a Christian and my band covers this song, I sing the original version.

  • Destinycooper31

    If y’all watched the video both lines are in the song he actual says no wise going to stop the bleeding line in his song so I dont see where they are censoring at? Cuz in the second verse he actual says exactly that so lost

  • Natalie

    Oh okay. Well, obviously your not a real christian. Because you wouldn’t say that line. Just because you go to church on Sundays doesn’t mean that your a christian. Get a life.

  • Natalie

    Let me know what church your going to..because its obviously not helping your life whats so ever.

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