Brian Ritchie, the [Violent Femmes'] bassist and a devout atheist, was against including the religious songs on the bands' first album, but eventually gave in. It may have hurt the group for a while, but they've emerged with a broader range and an extra dose of the ironic edge that initially brought them to the top of the charts. With the release of their 1994 album New Times, Ritchie said, "We don't really think it's our job to provide a consistent viewpoint. People are not consistent. Why should we be? We're not interested in selling people a message. We think it's better to just be ourselves, and if people are confused, that's fine. We're confused." --from a profile of the band by Chris Ridder published in Tweak.
Part of a fan letter and the reply (which Ritchie writes):
Fan: "I have a question...are you guys Christians?"
Reply: "Gordon comes from a Christian background. Guy worships aliens. Brian is Buddhist. Former drummer Victor is a lapsed Catholic."
That fan letter and the reply can be found at
Brian Ritchie had a solo song called "Religion Ruined My Life," the chorus of which had a country-gospel feel, while the talking-verse told the story about the various ways religion had screwed him over.
The chorus lyrics: "Religion ruined my life/Hallelujah [he also uses "Sweet Jesus" here in place of "Hallelujah"]/Religion ruined my life/Well I'm traumatized/Permanently scarred/Hoisted by religion's petard"
First verse: "When I was five years old, I walked out of church and got hit by a car. I suffered a brain concussion and was put in the hospital. Many friends and relatives visited me there and brought lots of cool presents. Then Reverend McKenzie came bringing a boring coloring book with bible stories. I thought to myself, 'If this man is in touch with God, would he bring such a lame present? No way!' My Mother says I was never the same after that day."
Second verse: "When I was twelve, my family switched churches because the one were attending wouldn't admit black people. In Sunday School I would ask questions like, 'How did they fit two of every species on that boat? There are no boats that large.' The minister told my parents, 'He's causing doubt.' I became the first child to be expelled from the church. When I realized my religion wouldn't let blacks in and would kick a boy out, it set me on a path of antisocial behavior, which landed me in jail within three years."
Third verse: "As an adult, I thought I was safe from religion. But when I was 26, my wife took all the money I had saved from years of touring with the Violent Femmes and went into hiding in Jamaica. I didn't see my young son for five months. She came under the spell of a Rastafarian con man and the money disappeared. We're divorced now. She's into Hindu and says she's raising my four year old boy to be a great spiritual leader."