Afterlife, oh my God, what an awful word

from Arcade Fire – Afterlife Lyrics on Rap Genius


Outspoken criticism of Christianity is a theme on Reflektor:

If you’re looking for Hell, just try looking inside

Yeah, heaven’s a place and they know where it is
Do you know where it is?
It’s behind the gate, they won’t let you in

Religious imagery was also present on the band’s previous album, Neon Bible. Vocalist Win Butler studied theology at McGill University.

Like much of Reflektor, Afterlife is both a celebration of life and a rebuke of religion. The song itself is an indictment of religion’s tendency to downplay inequality, human suffering, etc. due to the cosmic payoff of entry into heaven.

In this line, Butler is questioning the value of that payoff, calling afterlife, “an awful word.” For Arcade Fire, afterlife is an unfortunate concept because it’s representative not of something better post-life, but of the finality of death.

This could also be the afterlife of a relationship. After all the love (“breath”) is gone, what happens? This also makes the chorus more literal.

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