Like the other tracks on Journal For Plague Lovers, the lyrics of this song were penned by the Manics' former rhythm guitarist Richey Edwards shortly before he went missing in early 1995. Bass player Nicky Wire commented to the NME May 16, 2009: "'Silence is not sacrifice, crucifixion is the easy life.' It's just a classic Richey line That's him pressing buttons that he knows he's pressing. His religious obsession or rejection of it is quite strange." Wire added: "He went to Sunday school for a couple of years and he always talked about how much he really hated it, but it does seem to have has more of an impact than just that."
Vocalist James Dean Bradfield commented to the NME: "I think the supposed beauty in religious art, like the depiction of death as being beautiful and self-glorious, kind of troubled him and inspired him by the same turn."
Journal For Plague Lovers was produced by former Nirvana knob twiddler Steve Albini. Wire told the NME that he was particularly impressed by Albini's contribution to this track. He explained: "I think this is the most stunning piece of music on the record, Albini really, it was the one time he actually arranged four bars of music. He said, 'I'm really embarrassed about it, I hate doing this, I never do this, but just lay back on the first four bars and invert the beat on the intro, and then you've got that Harlem funeral sound'... and he called it really humble, he said 'it's such a humble song'. I think he genuinely liked this song. Yeah, I think it's a proper piece of music. It kind of reminds me of 'In The Neighbourhood' by Tom Waits."
Wire explained the audio clip on this song to the NME: "It's from The Virgin Suicides, not so much because it's a great film, but because Richey loved the book [by Jeffrey Eugenides]. I don't think the film would have been made by then [Sofia Coppola's adaptation was released in 1999], and that particular dialogue just seemed to fit."