Vocalist and chief songwriter Billie Joe Armstrong told Q magazine May 2009 that 21st Century Breakdown "is like the way American culture is right now, where a different week is a different crisis depending on where you're getting your news from, but there's also this feeling of hope that goes throughout the record. Life, I guess. And it ends up with this song."
Religion is a central theme of 21st Century Breakdown. Armstrong told The Sun April 24, 2009 that in particular, he was examining the hypocrisy of it and how organized religion is used to control poor people. He explained: "I like to consider myself a spiritual person, that there's some kind of higher power. But then there's culture and religious wars done in the name of their god. That's the manipulation. The hard part of it is when someone has blind faith. There's no arguing with them. You can't reason with them and they don't even respect your opinion. By the time you get to the final song (on the album), you're trying to find a deeper meaning in yourself, I guess."